Alex Chakmakjian (2009)
Crime, Immigration, International Human Rights, Public Law, Regulatory, Prison Law
Alex has established a reputation for exceptional attention to detail, assiduous client care and an imaginative style of advocacy. His range of abilities has allowed him to conduct the most challenging cases, including representing prisoners on death row before the Supreme Court of Uganda.
Alex came to the Bar after completing his LLM in human rights law. Prior to this, he accumulated substantial experience in human rights with work ranging from voluntary legal advice in Southall to missions to gather evidence from witnesses in Nepal. His further education and earlier experience frequently inform his established multi-disciplinary practice.
He is also qualified to accept instructions from members of the public directly via the Clerks.
- LLB (Hons), University of Southampton
- LLM, University College London – Law and International Human Rights
- BVC, College of Law
Alex conducts a successful criminal defence practice in the Crown Court. He has extensive experience in dealing with young and vulnerable clients, as well as those with mental health issues. In addition to regular instructions in matters such as serious violence, the supply of drugs and high-value theft, he is also able to provide specialist advice and representation in immigration and road traffic offences.
Alex has a particular interest in matters involving complex legal argument and fair trial issues. He is able to comprehensively advise and represent in proposed appeals against conviction, sentence or both.
Examples of recent work include:
- R v SS  Woolwich Crown Court – SS was acquitted of causing grievous bodily harm with intent by stabbing another in the face. SS had stated that the injury was accidentally caused in a struggle, as he lawfully tried to protect his property.
- R v SH  Inner London Crown Court - Defendant was tried for commercial burglary worth £20,000. The Crown relied on CCTV, DNA on a glove left at the scene and the Defendant's record of 17 previous convictions for similar offences. However, the jury were persuaded of the defence that any trace of the Defendant was an innocent coincidence and unanimously acquitted.
- R v AN  Inner London Crown Court - Successfully defended in a serious and sensitive assault trial over seven days, where the Defendant argued that the complainant had falsely imagined the allegations due to hallucinations.
- R v IP , Isleworth Crown Court - Led junior, defending a prosecution arising out of Operation Fisheyes. IP was alleged to be second-in-command in a multi-million pound conspiracy to supply cocaine, involving at least 18 others.
- R v SS  EWCA Crim 289 - Appellant was sentenced to 4 months' immediate custody following a guilty plea for possession of cannabis with intent to supply. The Court of Appeal accepted that the sentence ought to have been suspended. After further submissions, to the effect that having already spent time in prison a suspended sentence was no longer proportionate, the Court replaced the original sentence with a community order.
- R v SA , Blackfriars Crown Court - Defendant charged with attempting to smuggle a mobile telephone, in the form of a wristwatch, into prison. The Defence argued that she had absent-mindedly allowed her 2-year old son to wear the watch on a routine visit and had forgotten to remove it from him before entry. The jury acquitted immediately upon conclusion of the case.
- KM  EWCA Crim 2078 - Appellant was sentenced to 16 months' imprisonment following a guilty plea to Actual Bodily Harm and Common Assault. The offences were committed in the course of excessive chastisement by the Appellant on his young son. Following appeal, relying on the Appellant's exceptional mitigation and the deleterious effect of the Appellant's imprisonment on the family's welfare, the sentence was halved to one of 8 months.
- R v SM , Central Criminal Court – Defendant acquitted of possessing a firearm. The Crown relied on two complainants, who alleged they had been threatened with a handgun as the Defendant escaped from their shop, following a theft. They were cross-examined as to the reliability of their recollections and their inconsistent behaviour following the incident.
Prior to joining Chambers, Alex was a senior caseworker at a prominent London immigration firm, working on the Gurkha litigation. During his pupillage, he assisted Benjamin Hawkin in preparing the landmark case of ZH (Tanzania) v SSHD  UKSC 4 in the Supreme Court. He is instructed at all levels of the Courts and Tribunals, providing a full range of representation in immigration. His caseload ranges from Article 8 and Entry Clearance challenges to deportation, asylum and student/business visas. Alex is frequently asked to advise on, and conduct, further appeals in the Upper Tribunal and judicial reviews in the High Court. He also has significant expertise in difficult and complex bail applications.
Examples of recent work include:
- TJ  UT – Judicial review of unlawful failure to properly deal with key witness evidence. Home Office agreed to make a new decision after a successful application to expedite the application and the grant of permission.
- SA  FTT – Appeal against refusal of Entry Clearance for the spouse of a UK resident allowed.
- Y  FTT – Successful asylum appeal for high-ranking Iraqi national who had been threatened for refusing to co-operate with corrupt practices.
- Z  UT – Appeal of a refusal of political asylum from the FTT. The UT found errors of law and remade the decision in favour of the Appellant.
- X  FTT - Successful appeal against refusal to grant asylum status on behalf of Iranian national on the basis of political activity.
- NM  UT - Following submissions on behalf of the Appellant, the Upper Tribunal upheld a decision by the FTT that the Secretary of State's refusal to grant leave to remain under Article 8 was unlawful because of a failure to consider key evidence, and to remit to her for reconsideration.
- WO  UT - The President of the Tribunals agreed to set aside a determination of the First Tier Tribunal to uphold a decision to deport, after it was demonstrated that the matter should have been adjourned so that the Appellant had an opportunity to challenge his conviction in the Court of Appeal.
- R (Abdollahi) v SSHD  EWCA Civ 366 - Led junior, alongside Benjamin Hawkin. The case concerned detention under the Immigration Act 1971, where the detainee was separated from his wife and children for 26 months. Issues included whether the failure to consult Office of Children's Champion or consider children's best interests made detention unlawful, and whether nominal or substantial damages should be awarded.
- WM  FTT - The Tribunal overturned a decision refusing a Pakistani national asylum status due to his fear of persecution on the grounds of his minority religion.
Alex's mixed practice allows him to have a practical insight into immigration matters that also involve criminal issues.
International Human Rights
Alex continues to undertake pro bono work in Uganda, seeking to improve access to justice for those facing capital punishment. Alongside other British lawyers, he has travelled there in order to assist with projects to train lawyers, trial judges and appellate justices in principles of sentencing and international practice.
In 2015, he was one of two counsel appearing on behalf of two death row prisoners in the Supreme Court of Uganda (PK & DM Cr. App. No.3 of 2009). The Supreme Justices accepted submissions that the Court of Appeal had failed to consider mitigating factors and remitted the matter for a fresh hearing in the court below.
Alex has a rapidly growing practice in the field of regulatory work. His expertise in dealing with complex and sensitive evidence in the context of serious criminal trials provides him with a significant advantage in dealing with witnesses and technical issues arising in disciplinary cases. Furthermore, his work in immigration and other civil cases enables him to give considered and thoughtful advice on rules and procedure in a variety of jurisdictions.
Alex is a strategic and incisive barrister, available to assist on disciplinary issues before professional regulators, such as the General Medical Council (GMC), Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), and General Dental Council (GDC). This includes advice and representation at tribunal hearings (such as the MPTS), and onward appeals to the High Court.
Examples of recent work include:
- X v GPHC (2016) - A serious case about the supply of prescription-only medication by a pharmacist before the Fitness to Practice Committee, arising from a high-profile investigation broadcast on television.
- Z v NMC (2016) - Successfully challenging and revoking interim conditions imposed on a nurse during an investigation regarding allegedly below-standard performance of duties.
Alex regularly represents offenders before the Parole Board, appearing in all categories of hearings. Recent cases have included those seeking release or a move to open conditions during indefinite and mandatory life sentences. Alex is also available to conduct adjudication and recall hearings, as well as advise about judicial review issues.
He has experience advising clients regarding international prisoner transfer agreements and the complex issues that they raise. Examples of recent work include:
- Various successful applications for transfers to lower category prisons, open prisons and release for prisoners considered dangerous when sentenced, or convicted of homicide offences
- RC  – Judicial review before the High Court as to lawfulness of Parole Board’s treatment of expert evidence.