MY RECENT COURT APPEARANCES
Those of you who watch the news will know that I have recently been making my way through the Belfast Crown Court system.
I have wanted to blog about this matter for a long time but as the whole thing was sub judice I was not able to. But I would not shy away from it just because I was in trouble. I am what I am - but I am not a coward!
This matter has been hanging over me for 4 years. It started with me being invited by the police to assist them with their enquiries. As the matter dragged on the police formed the view that I had assisted those who had organised 14 sham marriages.
Since I was ordained I have celebrated some 2,500 marriages. Therefore the 14 marriages before the court represent less than 0.05 % of all my marriages.
As was said in court by the judge and lawyers I did not organise or profit from those marriages or the people involved.
My compassion - and maybe my naivete - was abused by others who made vast sums on money.
But of course it does leave me with a criminal conviction.
Below is the statement I read to the gathered media outside the court:
STATEMENT OF BISHOP PAT BUCKLEY
Today in Belfast Crown Court Mr Justice Mark Horner has imposed a suspended sentence on me. I am 61 years old and this is the very first time in my life that I have found myself on the wrong side of the law.
These proceedings began by me wholeheartedly assisting the police in 2010. I have never been arrested. I have never been the subject of a personal or home search. I have never been detained.
I have never sought to profit from the miserable circumstances in which the non EU participants have found themselves.
I had a genuine affinity with the poor. I do feel a strong sense of compassion for those who must live outside the EU in profound poverty and in appalling circumstances.
I am glad that the judge and the prosecution accept that I have provided solace to the outcast and that my door is always open to the downtrodden.
I am sorry for allowing my compassion to bring me to the point of breaking the laws that our whole society agree upon.
I did not intend to offend my fellow citizens but accept that I have and again for that I am sorry.
At this time of the year let us remember that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were emigrants into Egypt and the Wise Men of the time came from the East.
We are all descendants of immigrants..
Finally to those who want to rush to judge me can I address the words of the most famous man ever convicted or put on trial: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
+ Pat Buckley
19th December 2013.