Imposter sentenced for pretending to be immigration tribunal lawyer

A man who pretended to be a barrister during an immigration tribunal was arrested after court staff who knew the real lawyer spotted the deception, a court heard.

Cecil Decker, 39, was “sworn in” and signed papers as Andrew Otchie at Bream’s Buildings in London, where the appeals tribunal was being held, on March 1, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard on Thursday.

Rachel Darlington, prosecuting, said: “Members of the court that knew that Decker was not Otchie, not least because Otchie is a white man and Decker is not, alerted the police and the judge.”

When the police arrived, the judge challenged Decker and he admitted to not being Mr Otchie.

Officers rang Mr Otchie and he revealed he had received phone calls which claimed he has been representing clients he has no knowledge of, which “suggested it had been going on for some period of time,” Ms Darlington added.

Police contacted Mr Otchie’s chambers’ clerk, who said the barrister had not attended the January hearing either.

Mr Freedman said there was “no material financial benefit” to Decker’s actions and they were “a stupid, misguided attempt to assist somebody”.

In 2005, Decker was convicted after attempting to regularise his immigration status by the production of a fraudulent letter relating to his medical condition, the court heard.

The sentence imposed interrupted his attendance at Liverpool University, where he was a medical student, Mr Freedman said.

He added that Decker, of Old Kent Road, south London, is in the later stages of an IT course.

Decker’s father had been a practising barrister in Sierra Leone and the defendant had “attended court with his father from time to time”, the court heard.

Mr Freedman also told the court that Decker and his sister were “present when their father was murdered”.

He said: “This clearly has had an impact on him.”

He also ordered the defendant to complete 25 days of rehabilitation activity requirement, 150 hours of unpaid work, and to pay a £154 victim surcharge and £85 in costs.

The judge said: “I accept that you made no financial gain, there may have been a degree of altruism behind your behaviour but it does not alter the fact that the offence is aggravated by a number of features: one, the extent to which you took the matter forward.

“This wasn’t simply an oral representation out of court, what happened in the face of the court or in the court precincts, the court was deceived, court staff were deceived.

“The client, I dare say had an important immigration matter to be dealt with, could have been disadvantaged.

“It was a nuisance, to say the very least, to the barrister who you impersonated.”

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