Barrister struck off for secretly divorcing wife
The Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service, the regulatory body governing Barristers in England and Wales, has taken the move to strike off barrister Andrew Ehi Ukiwa, of London, after finding he had taken steps to divorce his wife without her consent at a recent disciplinary hearing.
Ukiwa, 59, initially met his wife, a 32-year-old medical practitioner from Nigeria, in April 2012 over Facebook. Meeting her for the first time one month later whilst visiting his sick father in May 2012, Ukiwa stated that his wife had arranged for them to marry at a mass ceremony and on 2 June 2012, the couple were married.
Subsequently, Ukiwa supported his wife’s application for a UK visa before things took a turn for the worse. Ukiwa stated at his disciplinary hearing that after their marriage his wife’s “attitude to him changed” and that “she wanted nothing to do with him.” His position was that “he did not want to marry her. It was a mistake”. Ukiwi returned to the United Kingdom the following month.
On his return, Ukiwa wrote to the British Embassy in Nigeria, the Home Office in the United Kingdom and the National Crime Agency, attempting to withdraw his support for his wife’s visa application. His position was that they had had a sham marriage and that he had been misled and deceived into marrying his wife who later arrived in Britain in March 2013.
On her arrival, Ukiwa refused her entry to his home. He later asked his wife for her address to obtain her consent to a divorce, but she refused to provide one.
Ukiwa then took matters into his own hands. In August 2013 he issued a divorce petition with the Barnet County Court, providing a false address for his wife to which the petition was later sent. An Acknowledgement of Service document was returned to the court, purportedly signed by Ukiwa’s wife, and Decree Nisi issued the following month.
However, it was later held that Ukiwa’s divorce had been secured fraudulently and in 2016 the Barnet Family Court found that he was guilty of dishonesty.
In regards to The Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service’s disciplinary hearing against Ukiwa, Panel Judge Witold Pawlak made the following remarks:
“Whoever completed the Acknowledgement of Service not only answered the questions in a way which was coherent and in the way (he) would have wanted to see, but also, and very significantly, attempted to copy the wife’s signature.
“It is patently impossible for some random stranger to have attempted that. We infer he believed if she saw the contents of the petition she would not agree to it so he decided to go behind her back in the way that we are sure he did.
“The public expect the highest ethical standards of barristers, not just in their professional lives but in their personal lives. 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.”
As a result, Ukiwa was struck off for his dishonesty.