Biography

Umar is a dual qualified barrister and solicitor, and is currently undertaking DPhil research into terrorism sentencing, focusing on and critiquing the current framework in England and Wales: his thesis is that the current terrorism sentencing scheme is unfit for purpose, with a more bespoke framework required. He is supervised by Professor Julian Roberts and Professor Andrew Ashworth QC. He is presently a solicitor at BCL Solicitors LLP, one of the leading firms in the jurisdiction focusing on white collar crime, investigations, and business crime. 

Background

This is Umar’s second time at Oxford having received an M.Sc. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Oxford (Worcester College) for which he was awarded a distinction and the Roger Hood Prize for the highest marks in the year.  He was called to the Bar of England and Wales by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple who awarded him a Benefactors’ Scholarship to fund his studies on the Bar Vocational Course. 

Umar practised as a barrister, predominately specialising in criminal law for several years, and also conducted litigation on behalf of the Attorney General. He went on to qualify as a solicitor at a City firm in London, where he gained significant experience of corporate crime and investigations. He then worked at the Criminal Appeal Office at the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) as a lawyer, which included working with and advising the senior judiciary. He was also part of a small team of lawyers that represented the Registrar of Criminal Appeals in the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee. 

Other Matters

Whilst studying for his M.Sc. at Worcester College, Umar was Research Assistant to Professor Julian Roberts, and he subsequently assisted Professor Roberts in preparing his book Criminal Justice: A Very Short Introduction (part of the Very Short Introduction series published by Oxford University Press). He was also a Research Associate at the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford after his M.Sc., conducting research into crime reporting in the Thames Valley. 

More recently, Umar attended a symposium in Hamburg in 2018 on the use of artificial intelligence within the criminal justice system, for which he drafted a detailed paper. His paper and research formed part of an application to the VW Stiftung, which resulted in a 4-year award for a project entitled Deciding about, by, and together with algorithmic decision making systems.  He has also recently spoken at various events at the University of Oxford and University College London on terrorism sentencing. Umar is also due to speak at an event at a House of Lords webinar on the terrorism sentencing aspects of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021. 

Umar endeavours to keep abreast of legal developments both in academia and practice, and publishes both academic and practitioner-relevant articles on various aspects of law and procedure. His academic articles can be seen in the Publications tab on this page, and practitioner-focused topics include the charging practices of the Serious Fraud Office, private prosecutions, and legal professional privilege, all available at www.bcl.com

Publications

Recent additions

  • U M Azmeh, 'Exemplary Sentencing? The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2020 ' [2021] 1 Criminal Law Review 5
    In response to recent acts of terrorism in London, notably Fishmonger’s Hall and Streatham, the UK Government is seeking to revamp the terrorism sentencing scheme. It passed emergency legislation at the beginning of 2020 which concerned the release of prisoners serving determinate sentences for terrorism offences, mandating Parole Board input prior to release. The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2020 is the second part of that revamp, comprising an important and sweeping set of reforms including mandatory minimum sentencing, a new type of sentence for certain offenders who have committed terrorism offences, and reducing the credit available for pleas of guilty in some circumstances. This article reviews the Bill, performing a close analysis of its provisions, and sets out some of the potential unintended consequences that are likely to come to pass should the Bill be enacted into law, suggesting potential remedial action to rectify those issues.
  • U M Azmeh, 'Attorney General's Reference No.688 of 2019 (R v McCann); Attorney General's Reference No.5 of 2020 (R v Sinaga); R v Shah (Manish)' [2021] 4 Criminal Law Review 325 [Case Note]
    This case comment analyses the judgment, noting that whilst the Court of Appeal did not seek to set any firm rule, it has effectively declined in advance to impose whole life orders in any sexual offence case. The Court did suggest that in certain narrow categories of non-homicide case, whole life orders might be appropriate: the cases envisaged are effectively unsuccessful attempts/plans to commit mass murder. The article goes on to explore the Court’s somewhat unorthodox reasoning that it deployed to increase the minimum terms upon both McCann and Sinaga to 40 years.
  • U M Azmeh, 'Coughing and spitting: the offences against the person implications of Covid-19' (2021) Criminal Law Review (forthcoming)

Case Note (1)

U M Azmeh, 'Attorney General's Reference No.688 of 2019 (R v McCann); Attorney General's Reference No.5 of 2020 (R v Sinaga); R v Shah (Manish)' [2021] 4 Criminal Law Review 325 [Case Note]
This case comment analyses the judgment, noting that whilst the Court of Appeal did not seek to set any firm rule, it has effectively declined in advance to impose whole life orders in any sexual offence case. The Court did suggest that in certain narrow categories of non-homicide case, whole life orders might be appropriate: the cases envisaged are effectively unsuccessful attempts/plans to commit mass murder. The article goes on to explore the Court’s somewhat unorthodox reasoning that it deployed to increase the minimum terms upon both McCann and Sinaga to 40 years.

Journal Article (7)

U M Azmeh, 'Coughing and spitting: the offences against the person implications of Covid-19' (2021) Criminal Law Review (forthcoming)
U M Azmeh, 'Exemplary Sentencing? The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2020 ' [2021] 1 Criminal Law Review 5
In response to recent acts of terrorism in London, notably Fishmonger’s Hall and Streatham, the UK Government is seeking to revamp the terrorism sentencing scheme. It passed emergency legislation at the beginning of 2020 which concerned the release of prisoners serving determinate sentences for terrorism offences, mandating Parole Board input prior to release. The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2020 is the second part of that revamp, comprising an important and sweeping set of reforms including mandatory minimum sentencing, a new type of sentence for certain offenders who have committed terrorism offences, and reducing the credit available for pleas of guilty in some circumstances. This article reviews the Bill, performing a close analysis of its provisions, and sets out some of the potential unintended consequences that are likely to come to pass should the Bill be enacted into law, suggesting potential remedial action to rectify those issues.
J V Roberts and U M Azmeh, 'Cleansing the Augean Stables: a commentary on the Law Commission's Sentencing Code for England and Wales' [2019] 8 Criminal Law Review 694
In 2018 the Law Commission published its Sentencing Code, the final product of a project originating in 2015. The aim of the project was to create a single sentencing statute to bring together all of the existing legislation governing sentencing procedure within a single enactment. This commentary recognises the importance of the Commission's initiative and advocates a more ambitious reform based upon the Code. The authors see the Code as constituting a platform for future reforms; the consolidation was a necessary first step towards more principled and consistent sentencing. In this respect, it constitutes a dynamic structure which should facilitate further enhancements to the sentencing process.
S Bergstrom and U M Azmeh, 'The Role of the Victim Personal Statement in Sentencing' (2019) Archbold Review 6
This article evaluates the role that Victim Personal Statements ('VPS') can play in the criminal justice system, specifically at sentencing. Taking account of the recent decision in R v Chall and others [2019] EWCA Crim. 865, the article stresses the value and impact that VPS can add to the sentencing process, despite ambivalent perceptions of the VPS scheme.
U M Azmeh, 'Comment on the Terrorism Offences Definitive Guideline' (2018) 1 Sentencing News 6
The Sentencing Council published the Terrorism Offences Definitive Guideline (the "Guideline") on 28 March 2018, after an expedited consultation that ran from 12 October 2017 to 22 November 2017. The Guideline covers the same nine offences that were covered in the Draft Guideline, and is to be used in sentencing from 27 April 2018. This article analyses the guideline applicable to the sentencing of offenders who have been convicted of an offence contrary to the Terrorism Act 2006 s.5 (preparation of terrorist acts).
U M Azmeh, 'Judicial warning - deterrence and large organisations' (2015) 2 Sentencing News 12
This article reviews the effectiveness of the Definitive Guideline on Environmental Offences in light of the decision in In R. v Thames Water Utilities Ltd [2015] EWCA Crim 960.
J V Roberts, U M Azmeh and K Tripathi, 'Structured Sentencing in England and Wales: Recent Developments and Lessons for India' (2011) 23(1) National Law School of India Review 27
The Indian judicial system follows the traditional common law formula for sentencing: courts are provided with wide discretion to determine sentence, with appellate review constituting the only institutional mechanism to promote consistency, fairness and principled sentencing. Though the United States has recently moved away from this system by evolving a set of sentencing guidelines and consequently reducing the discretion available with the judge, in other common law countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, trial courts have long enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, considerable freedom to determine sentence in the absence of any formal guidelines. None of these jurisdictions has to date implemented a formal guideline system for sentencers. However, this state of affairs has now changed in England and Wales, where courts must now follow a system of guidelines which has slowly evolved over the past decade. This essay looks into the guideline system that has thus evolved.

Research Interests

Criminal law, sentencing, terrorism, criminal justice, white collar crime, investigations, criminal procedure & legal professional privilege. 

Research projects