The secure CJSM email is:

alex.chakmakjian@1mcb.cjsm.net

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 Masters degree 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.

Immigration & asylum

Alex is regularly instructed on complex and challenging immigration and asylum cases.  He has a particular interest in assisting vulnerable clients, children and those with mental health issues.  His substantial experience in criminal law means that he has significant insight into issues arising from deportation matters.

Through his expertise in representing victims of trafficking, Alex worked to establish and clarify the key principles that can arise in such cases in the reported case of DC (Trafficking, Protection/Human Rights appeals: Albania) [2019] UKUT 351 (IAC).  The judges, including the President of the Upper Tribunals (IAC), commended Alex on his helpful analysis of the caselaw, which informed much of the leading judgment (para.13).

Alex also has a depth of experience in statelessness, family life and EEA cases (including family and extended family members).  He is frequently asked to deal with judicial review matters on a broad range of immigration cases, and advises on student and business visas, as well as entry clearance.

Alex is especially happy to assist in complex bail applications and challenges to the lawfulness of detention, and has a substantial history of involvement in such cases.

Before joining Chambers, Alex was a senior caseworker at a prominent London immigration firm, working on the Gurkha litigation.  When he first joined Chambers in 2010, he assisted Benjamin Hawkin in preparing the landmark case of ZH (Tanzania) v SSHD [2011] UKSC 4 in the Supreme Court.

Recent cases

  • DC (Trafficking, Protection/Human Rights appeals : Albania) [2019] UKUT 351 (IAC) – In this reported determination, Alex sought to clarify the key principles guiding the relevance of NRM decisions to immigration appeals.  At para.13, the President of the Upper Tribunal referred to Alex’s analysis of the law informing much of the Tribunal’s judgment.
  • AR and Others (2019, Upper Tribunal) – After Alex secured an undertaking from the Home Office Presenting Officer that AR would be granted Humanitarian Protection, the Home Office went back on their promise and granted a short period of Discretionary Leave instead.  The decision was challenged by way of Judicial Review, and Home Office efforts to avoid responsibility were successfully disputed, with Alex drafting litigation correspondence on behalf of the family.  The Home Office subsequently settled the case and granted the family Humanitarian Protection as promised, and was ordered by the court to pay the family’s legal costs.
  • EK (2019, First-tier Tribunal) – Successful asylum appeal on behalf of a vulnerable Afghan male who arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied minor, fearing persecution and destitution upon return.
  • JL (2019, Upper Tribunal) – Complex challenge to Home Office decision to certify a human rights application as clearly unfounded.  After permission granted, the Home Office agreed to withdraw the certificate and pay costs.
  • VJ (2019, Upper Tribunal and First-tier Tribunal) – Alex successfully challenged a decision of the FTT to refuse VJ’s appeal, wherein she claimed that she was a victim of trafficking and at risk on return to her country of origin.  The UT agreed that the FTT had made errors and remitted the case to the FTT for reconsideration before a different judge.  Alex represented VJ at the new FTT hearing, and the appeal was subsequently allowed.
  • XR (2018, Upper Tribunal) – A case involving a family who had resided in the UK unlawfully, and where the children had been living in the UK for several years.  Instructed after FTT dismissed XR’s appeal.  UT was persuaded that FTT had erred in law, and set aside the determination.  UT went on to rehear the appeal and accepted that it the family’s removal from the UK was a disproportionate interference with their private and family life in the UK.
  • AA (2018, First-tier Tribunal) – AA appealed a decision refusing him retained rights of residence under the EEA Regulations, after he had divorced from his EEA national wife.  After agreeing to grant an order for Home Office disclosure of her employment records, the FTT accepted that AA could demonstrate his right to residence and allowed his appeal.
  • YS (2018, Upper Tribunal) – The FTT refused YS’s appeal for leave to remain on the grounds that she was a victim of domestic violence.  The FTT’s determination was challenged for failing to give sufficient weight to the evidence of violence, and to YS’s private and family life (Art.8 ECHR).  The UT agreed that the FTT had not dealt with the evidence properly, and further allowed the submission of new evidence relating to violence.  The FTT’s determination was set aside, and the UT proceeded to remake the decision in favour of YS.
  • ZH (Tanzania) v SSHD [2011] UKSC 4 – during pupillage Alex assisted Benjamin Hawkin in preparing the landmark in the Supreme Court.

International human rights

This area of law has regularly been the key focus of many cases that Alex has conducted in England and Wales. However, in addition to this caseload, Alex has also worked in foreign jurisdictions for those who have been in desperate need of the protections contained in international human rights law.

In particular, Alex has assisted the charity Evolve – Foundation for Legal Assistance in its operations in Uganda, helping death row prisoners. Notably, Alex was granted special dispensation to appear in person in the Supreme Court of Uganda to challenge a decision of the Court of Appeal to uphold a conviction for murder, and the imposition of the death sentence. He appeared alongside Tanya Murshed, between them representing two clients in the country’s highest court.

He has travelled to Uganda on a number of occasions and has held conferences with prisoners on death row.

Before qualifying as a barrister, Alex also worked in Nepal with Gurkha veterans of the British Army, seeking to challenge Home Office decisions refusing permission to settle in the UK after their distinguished service to the country. He assisted solicitors in the key case of Limbu & Ors, R (on the application of) v SSHD [2008] EWHC 2261 (Admin), which received widespread media attention following a high profile campaign.

Recent cases

  • PK and DM v Uganda (2015) Supreme Court of Uganda – this case included challenges to convictions for murder, and the death sentences imposed by the trial judge. The Supreme Court agreed with oral and written submissions that the Court of Appeal had failed to adequately consider whether the death penalty was proportionate in this case, and whether it was in accordance with international law. The appeal against conviction was adjourned until the Court of Appeal reconsidered their decision;
  • PK and DM v Uganda (2016) Court of Appeal of Uganda – through the provision of written submissions on principles of international law and from other judgments from all over the world, the Court of Appeal reconsidered their previous decision and confirmed for the first time that <em>“…the death penalty should only be imposed in circumstances which establish the gravest of extreme culpability and where a Court determines that individual reform and rehabilitation consequent to a custodial sentence would be impossible. This assessment should only be made upon consideration of expert evidence. The appellants’ death sentences were commuted to 20 years’ imprisonment. This case is already being relied upon by representatives of other prisoners challenging their own death sentences.

Public law & judicial review

Alex has always maintained a strong professional interest in public law and civil liberties. He is able to advise and represent those affected by decisions (or failures to make decisions) by public authorities. His experience as an immigration and asylum barrister has meant that he is regularly involved in appeals against decisions of the Home Office. However, he has also acted in challenges to decisions of the Parole Board and Secretary of State for Justice, as well as advising about police misconduct.

Recent cases

  • OD – advising solicitors and drafting submissions on an unlawful decision to issue a deportation order in relation to an EU national. The effects of the unlawful decision meant that the Prison Service regarded OD as ineligible for early release on Home Detention Curfew (HDC). After the Secretaries of State for the Home Department and Justice were pressed with submissions on the relevant law, the deportation order was withdrawn and OD was subsequently released on HDC;
  • RC – judicial review before the High Court as to the lawfulness of the Parole Board’s treatment of expert evidence.
  • BH – Advising on issues regarding complex care plan for vulnerable young person.  Alex reviewed the merits of judicial review of the local authority’s failure to meet BH’s needs, and gave strategic advice in relation to pursuing matters out of time.

Regulatory law

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.

Alex has experience with disciplinary issues arising from proceedings under the Football Association’s regulations and rules of conduct.  In 2019, Alex was invited to sit on the London FA’s disciplinary commission as an independent member.

Recent cases

  • X v GPHC – 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. The hearings required challenging sensitive evidence that had been published in mainstream media and attempts by the Council to rely on anonymous witnesses;
  • Z v NMC – successfully challenging and revoking all interim conditions imposed on a nurse during an investigation into allegedly below-standard performance of duties.

Crime

Alex is a criminal defence barrister and conducts a successful 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, knife crime and high-value burglaries, 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.

Recent cases

  • R v SS (Woolwich Crown Court) – SS was acquitted of causing grievous bodily harm with intent (GBH) by stabbing another in the face. The defence case was that the injury was accidentally caused in a struggle, as SS lawfully tried to protect his property;
  • R v SH (Inner London Crown Court) – defendant was tried for commercial burglary of equipment 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. On behalf of SH, it was maintained that any trace of the Defendant was an innocent coincidence. The jury unanimously acquitted SH;
  • R v AN (Inner London Crown Court) – successfully defended in a serious and sensitive assault trial, over seven days, where the defence case was that the complainant had falsely imagined the allegations due to hallucinations;
  • R v IP (Isleworth Crown Court) – led junior, defending a case arising out of Operation Fisheyes. IP was alleged to be second-in-command in a multi-million pound conspiracy to supply class A drugs (cocaine), involving at least 18 others;
  • R v SS [2014] EWCA Crim 289 – appellant was sentenced to 4 months’ immediate custody following a guilty plea for possession of class B drugs (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 wristwatch mobile telephone 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 [2013] EWCA Crim 2078 – appellant was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment following a guilty plea to assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) and common assault. The offences were committed in the course of excessive chastisement by the appellant on his young son. On appeal, relying on the appellant’s exceptional mitigation and the negative effect of the appellant’s absence on the children’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.

Prison law

Alex regularly represents offenders before the Parole Board, appearing in all categories of hearings. Recent cases have included representing 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 to advise about judicial review issues.

He has experience advising clients regarding international prisoner transfer agreements and the complex issues that they raise.

Recent cases

  • 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 (2015) – judicial review before the High Court as to lawfulness of Parole Board’s treatment of expert evidence.

Education

  • LLB (Hons), University of Southampton
  • LLM, University College London – Law and International Human Rights
  • BVC, College of Law
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