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The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation

 

Registrar-General welcomes sentencing in fake marriage celebrant case


MEDIA RELEASE 01 February 2011

Registrar-General welcomes sentencing in fake marriage celebrant case

The Registrar-General of Births Deaths and Marriages welcomes the sentencing of Geoffrey Robert Topham Hall and Reverend Maurice Gray on Marriage Act charges.

Geoffrey Hall, a 56-year-old funeral director from Christchurch, was convicted and fined $1000.00 for making a false declaration. For falsely pretending to be a marriage celebrant, in connection with a marriage in Kaiapoi in 2006, he was ordered to pay reparation of $3500.00 to the groom, Mr Phillip Ellis, for emotional harm and $2500.00 reparation for wedding costs. In addition, he was ordered to pay the Department of Internal Affairs $750.00 for the costs of prosecution.

Reverend Maurice Gray, also from Christchurch, was discharged without conviction on a charge of making a false declaration in connection with the same marriage. He was ordered to pay $3500.00 reparation to Mr Ellis for emotional harm and was also ordered to pay $750.00 towards the Department’s costs for the prosecution.

Ross McPherson, the Deputy Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages said “The sentencing sends a strong message that it is unacceptable to pretend to be a marriage celebrant, and to make false declarations on marriage documents.”

The Registrar-General reminds marriage celebrants of the important role they have in New Zealand.

“The role of marriage celebrant in New Zealand is an important part of our social fabric and the Registrar-General has an expectation that marriage celebrants will perform the role they have been appointed to, and will do so in accordance with legal requirements.

“These convictions reiterate that marriage celebrants must take an active and controlling role. Merely being present is not enough, and not even turning up to the venue falls astonishingly short of a celebrant’s obligations. Everyone present at a wedding must be in no doubt about who is the celebrant,” said Mr McPherson.

“Generally marriage celebrants undertake their responsibilities to a high standard and New Zealand is well served. But those who may wish to shirk their obligations need to know that they cannot, and that they must be a controlling presence at every marriage they agree to put their name to, and people who are not celebrants cannot hold themselves out in a way that suggests they have the authority to perform the functions of a marriage celebrant – they do not."

Information on who has been appointed as a marriage celebrant can be found on the BDM website, www.bdm.govt.nz, or from the New Zealand Gazette. Celebrant Associations and Guilds may also be able to assist with identifying a marriage celebrant.

ENDS

Shawn Hollister
Senior Communications Advisor
The Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua
Phone: 04 382 3700 or 027 255 9389
email: shawn.hollister@dia.govt.nz