A barrister who deliberately gave the court a wrong address “with the intention of obtaining a divorce fraudulently” has been disbarred.
A Bar disciplinary tribunal said that, although the offence took place before Andrew Ehi Ukiwa was qualified, he had “persisted in denying what he had done”.
The tribunal found that Mr Ukiwa had engaged in dishonest conduct in an attempt to deceive both the court and his wife by giving a false address “with the intention of obtaining a divorce fraudulently”, knowing that “someone else at that address would complete and return the acknowledgement of service”.
The tribunal heard that Mr Ukiwa, 59, was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in October 2010. He qualified in September 2017.
Mr Ukiwa visited Nigeria to see his ill father May 2012. “On the way, he stayed in Lagos where he met up with a woman who had connected with the previous month on Facebook.
“She was 32 years old then and a medical practitioner. He says she arranged for them to marry at a mass wedding, which conveniently happened to be taking place a few days after they had met.
“They did marry on 2 June 2012 after which he says her attitude to him changed. She wanted nothing to do with him. In evidence he said he did not want to marry her. It was a mistake.”
Knowing that his wife had applied for a UK visa with his backing before the wedding, the barrister wrote to the Home Office and the National Crime Agency, withdrawing his support.
He described the marriage to the Home Office as a “sham”, but later in 2012 his wife emailed to say she had obtained her spouse’s visa and she arrived in the UK in March 2013.
The Bar tribunal said that without warning, she appeared at the barrister’s home address but he did not let her in. Mr Ukiwa reported his wife to the police and sought an injunction against her, which “did not go anywhere”.
A divorce petition issued in March 2013 was dismissed the following month. A second petition was issued in August 2013 and an acknowledgement of service returned from an address in South London.
The decree nisi was made absolute in November 2013, and the tribunal said it appeared that Mr Ukiwa remarried the following year.
However, his wife went to solicitors, who obtained a copy of the acknowledgement of service. The wife asserted, and Mr Ukiwa accepted, that “none of the writing on it was hers”.
Her Honour Judge Karp ruled in December 2016 at Barnet Family Court that the decrees nisi and absolute had been obtained fraudulently and should be set aside. Mr Ukiwa accepted the ruling.
The Bar tribunal said it had looked at the evidence “afresh” and found that, contrary to the findings of HHJ Karp, the wife was “behaving aggressively” towards Mr Ukiwa and he “did have cause” to be concerned about her.
“Her emails were aggressive and volatile. She made threats to break his door down. She only became more conciliatory when he told her he had reported her to the police.”
However, Mr Ukiwa was found to have engaged in dishonest conduct, and behaved in a manner prejudicial to the administration of justice, which was likely to diminish confidence in the legal profession. He had also failed to report his misconduct to the Bar Standards Board.
“This dishonesty was not only related to his wife but also it was dishonesty in relation to a court in providing a false address for her to which the acknowledgement of service was to be sent by the court with a view to him answering the questions in order to obtain a divorce behind her back.”
The decision is currently open to appeal.