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Possession of a False Identity Documents With Improper Intent

Date produced: January 2012
Title: Forgery
Offence: Possession of False Identity Documents With Improper Intent
Legislation: S 4 IDENTITY DOCUMENTS ACT 2010
Commencement date: 21 January 2011
Mode of Trial: Indictable Only
Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: 10 years

The principal amendment to the Identity Cards Act offences is that the offending relates to the provision of 'personal information' rather then to 'registrable facts'.  This is defined in section 8 of the IDA 2010 and means full name, gender, DOB, addresses, residential status, etc see Archbold 22-45e

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

  • Nature of document.
  • Intent.
  • More than one document.
  • Intended Gain - financial or otherwise.
  • Sophisticated Offending.
  • Professional hallmarks.

Relevant sentencing Guidelines (If any)


Relevant Sentencing Case Law

These cases are under the Identity Cards Act 2006 but they remain good law and give guidance, the maximum penalties are the same for both s 4 IDA 2010 and s 25(1) ICA 2006 offences.


R v SINGH [1999] 1 Cr App R (S) 490
The integrity of the passport system must be maintained and deterrent sentences [for use] are required. Save in exceptional circumstances custodial sentences should be imposed.

R v CHEEMA [2002] 2 Cr App R (S) 79 large scale courier 3 years.

R v KOLAWOLE [2005] 2 Cr App R (S) 14 possession of a false instrument (passports) with intent (S3(1) and S5(1) FCA 1981). The defendant was driving erratically and found in possession of two false passports  - Deterrent sentence even on a guilty plea by a person of good character 12 -18m.

R v MUTEDE [2005] EWCA Crim 3208
The defendant, who had a genuine passport, pleaded guilty to obtaining the false immigration letters and false national insurance card to enable her to work in the United Kingdom. Kolawole was primarily concerned with false passports.  In the Court's view it was necessary to distinguish using a false passport to obtain entry into the country, and using false immigration letters to obtain work. 6 months.

Brazilian over-stayer used false identity documents to open a bank account to receive her wages as a cleaner. No drain on the economy. Sentence 6m.  No embargo on a judge suspending a sentence for such an offence if there was proper ground to do so, nor was there any statutory requirement that there should be exceptional circumstances. However, once it was recognised that ordinarily the appropriate sentence for an offence of that kind involved immediate custody, there had to be some good reason for the judge to act differently in a particular case, for simple reasons of consistency.

R. v. ADEBAYO [2007] EWCA Crim 878. The defendant went to an employment agency and produced two documents, a national insurance card and a Nigerian passport which were fake. The defendant claimed that he had entered the United Kingdom about 10 years earlier and had lost his Nigerian passport. He had paid £2,500 for the two false documents which he had produced. Sentenced 2 years reduce to 15 months. Recommendation for deportation.

The court considered R v Kolawole [2005] and R v Mutede [2005] and stated the distinction was between the use of a false passport which is "of very considerable significance to the security of this country and to the propriety of immigration laws" and cases where the defendant had a genuine passport, but used false documents in order to obtain employment .The court also stated that it is more serious to use false documents to seek to obtain employment than to open a bank account

R v BLAKE [2008] EWCA Crim 505 (possession with intent). The defendant was an illegal over-stayer. He was in possession of a false driving license and showed it to a police officer following a road traffic incident and claimed to be that other person. He admitted in interview that the licence had been copied and his own photo inserted. He had the licence to obtain work. Held 9 months upheld.

R v OVIERIAKHI [2009] 2 Cr App r (S) 91
The appellant, a woman of good character, lawfully entered the UK. She then remained longer than the time permitted and obtained a false passport in order to obtain a job. The work that she obtained, in a care home, was worthwhile and necessary. In their Lordships' judgment, the divergence in [the earlier] authorities arose primarily from the difference in their facts.

At one end of the scale was the use or possession for use of false passports for the purpose of evading, or enabling others to evade the controls on entry into the United Kingdom. At the other end of the scale was the use by someone who was lawfully in the UK of a document other than a passport for the purpose of obtaining employment or a bank account.  Wherever the case was on the spectrum, a custodial sentence was likely, save in exceptional circumstances.

In cases in which a false passport was to be used for the purpose of securing entry into the UK, the guidance contained in Kolawole applied. Where, however, a false passport was used to obtain work or a bank account, its use did not enable the offender to obtain entry to the UK and for that reason it might properly be treated less severely than the use of a passport which did, or might have that effect. 12 months reduced to 6m following a plea. What the use of a passport to obtain work did, however, do was to facilitate the offender remaining in the UK in breach of immigration controls.

R v VARGAS [2011] EWCA Crim 2482
The appellant from Peru, came to this country via the Ukraine in May 2002. Shortly afterwards he applied for asylum but that application was refused. In March 2011, as a result of a separate investigation on unrelated matters, a search warrant was executed at his home address in Tiverton. During the course of that search the police found a genuine Spanish passport issued in the name of a person who had reported it missing in January 2003. The passport had expired in November 2004. The passport had been altered by the substitution of the appellant's photograph. Admitted he obtained the passport some time in 2003 or 2004 when working in London to apply for employment. He said he provided a photograph and received the passport in return. Apart from a motoring offence in 2008 the appellant does not have any prior convictions, albeit that he is in this country unlawfully.

The document that he had is a passport. The judge accepted that he had never used it, certainly not to gain entry to the country nor, one must conclude, to obtain employment or otherwise. Given those circumstances 8m appropriate.

Ancillary Orders

  • Confiscation
  • Forfeiture and Destruction of the document

Consider Also

  • Deportation, especially when 12 m or more in which case automatic recommendation under s 32 UK BORDERS ACT 2007 Archbold 5-1267

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