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.

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 (2016, 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 (2015, 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 (2015, 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 (2014, 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 (2014, 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 (2013, 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.

Immigration & asylum

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 [2011] UKSC 4 in the Supreme Court.

As an experienced barrister, he is regularly instructed at all levels of the courts and tribunals, providing a full range of representation in immigration and asylum applications and appeals.  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.

Alex’s mixed practice allows him to have a practical insight into immigration matters that also involve criminal issues.

Recent cases

  • M (2016, Upper Tribunal) – the Upper Tribunal accepted that the previous Country Guidance case about the safety of returns to Libya was out of date and should no longer be relied on. Days later, a fresh country guidance case was issued by the Vice-President of the Tribunals, confirming the same;
  • TJ (2016, Upper Tribunal) – judicial review of the Home Office’s treatment of key witness evidence, in an application for a ‘No Time Limit’ stamp.  In light of the challenges to the lawfulness of the Secretary of State’s approach, and her failure to follow her own policy, set out in Alex’s grounds, the Secretary of State agreed to withdraw her decision and accepted the evidence submitted as credible;
  • SA (2016, First-tier Tribunal) – appeal against refusal of entry clearance for the spouse of a UK resident allowed;
  • Y (2016, First-tier Tribunal) – successful asylum appeal of a high-ranking Iraqi national who had been threatened for refusing to co-operate with corrupt practices;
  • Z (2016, Upper Tribunal) – appeal of a refusal of political asylum from the First-tier Tribunal.  The Upper Tribunal found errors of law and remade the decision in favour of the appellant;
  • (2015, First-tier Tribunal) – successful appeal against refusal to grant asylum status to an Iranian national on the basis of political activity;
  • NM (2015, Upper Tribunal) – following submissions on behalf of the appellant, the Upper Tribunal upheld a decision by the First-tier Tribunal 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 (2014, Upper Tribunal) – 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 [2013] 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 the Office of the Children’s Champion or to consider the children’s best interests made detention unlawful, and whether nominal or substantial damages should be awarded;
  • WM (2013, First-tier Tribunal) – The tribunal overturned a Home Office decision refusing a Pakistani national asylum status due to his fear of persecution on the grounds of his minority religion.

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.

Recent cases

  • X v GPHC (2016) – s 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 (2016) – successfully challenging and revoking all interim conditions imposed on a nurse during an investigation into allegedly below-standard performance of duties.

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 (2016) – 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 (2015) – Judicial review before the High Court as to the lawfulness of the Parole Board’s treatment of expert evidence.

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 vital 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 “…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.

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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