A NORTH East casino manager has escaped a jail sentence after admitting an offence of bigamy.
Lee Naugher was still married to his first wife, Helen, when he tied the knot with another woman in South Africa.
The 38-year-old, of Crofton Street, South Shields, appeared at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday and pleaded guilty to bigamy.
He was facing up to six months in prison for the offence, but magistrates decided to impose a 12-month community order.
The court heard that Naugher married his first wife in July 2005 and that they separated in May 2009, but they did not go through any divorce proceedings.
Then in March this year, he travelled to South Africa and married Michelle Du-Plessis.
Naugher, a manager at Grosvenor Casino in Newcastle, did not tell his new wife of his first marriage. She was “shocked and upset” after she found out, but has now resumed her relationship with him and they plan to re-marry.
Prosecutor Paul Anderson said: “Police attended his home address and recovered a second marriage certificate.
“Officers spoke to his wife, Helen. She said she was still married to him and never made any efforts to divorce him. He was interviewed by police and he accepted he married Helen in 2005 and left her.
“He had a relationship with a female, Rachel Eklund. He was involved in that relationship when he travelled to South Africa where he met an old flame, as it were, Michelle Du-Plessis.
“He came back to England and the relationship continued via the internet and various visits both ways. In September last year, he printed divorce papers off the internet and sent them to Helen.
“He accepts that he never discussed it with her and never checked if she had received the papers.
“Then in March, he went back to South Africa and married Michelle Du-Plessis. He said he believed there was a distinct possibility he was still married to Helen.”
In a police statement, his second wife said: “I’m very upset about this. I gave up my home, my job, my car and my children to be with Lee.”
But the court was told that Ms Du-Plessis and Naugher were now continuing their relationship and planned to get re-married once his divorce was formally complete. In mitigation, solicitor Charlton Carr said there had been no suggestion of any fraud and his client had no previous convictions.
He added: “His first marriage was over. He married a second time but did not go through the proper procedures.
“His first wife has now filed for divorce. The matrimonial home is going to be given completely over to his wife. As far as his new marriage is concerned, she was upset at the time, but both have decided that their relationship will continue.
“This gentleman has made a silly mistake. The reality is that if he had just filled in the correct paperwork from the outset, he would have been properly divorced from his first wife.
“The marriage was over. There were no problems with anyone contesting the separation.
“Now he is absolutely kicking himself. If he had got the divorce properly, then the second marriage would not have been a problem at all.”
Mr Carr said an inquiry was to take place at Naugher’s workplace and there was a possibility he could lose his job as a result of his actions.
Magistrates imposed a 12-month community order with 150 hours of unpaid work, and ordered him to pay £85 costs.