Asylum seeker accused of riots theft is an adult, court decides
AN ASYLUM seeker accused of stealing jewellery during last summer's riots has had his claim that he is under 18 rejected.
The decision, made by Croydon magistrate Robert Hunter on Friday, upholds Croydon Council's assessment, and means Masoud Ahmadzai will be treated as an adult in court.
That may affect the sort of evidence that can be admitted in any trial, the length of any sentence, and means the press can automatically report his name.
Ahmadzai, of Woodside Road, Purley, has been remanded in custody until his next appearance, at Camberwell Magistrates' Court on August 24.
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He will face one count of burglary, at Albone Jewellers in Surrey Street on August 8 last year, where it is alleged he stole "several Playboy-style rings".
He is yet to enter a plea.
The Afghan native had been charged with two other counts of burglary and one of violent disorder but these were dropped at the age assessment hearing on Friday. Prosecuting, Dilichi Onuzo did not say why.
The court heard how Ahmadzai arrived in England as an unaccompanied minor in 2009.
Croydon Council social workers deemed him to be 15 at the time, based on his appearance and behaviour. Their assessment complied with legal guidance for local authorities when assessing a young person's age.
Ahmadzai – whose asylum case is ongoing – did not argue the assessment at the time, and later applied for a driving licence as an 18-year-old, the court heard.
However, he did dispute his age after he was arrested for the riot charges and a judge at Camberwell Magistrates' Court deemed him 18, based on his appearance.
"One way or another he has misrepresented his age," said Mr Roberts.
Defending, John Blandford showed the judge a 40-page report from a paediatrician, putting Ahmadzai's age at 15 in November last year. The doctor conducted an interview with and physical assessment of Ahmadzai.
"She states that he was rather shy and anxious," said Mr Hunter. "She concludes that he was a little over 15 at the time of the exam."
That contrasted with the social workers' assessment, which described Mr Ahmadzai as "assertive and articulate – positive body language, making eye contact, all indicating a certain level of maturity", said Mr Hunter.
He added: "When he was informed of the outcome he did not appear to dispute it. The other piece of evidence is the application for a driving licence.
"Considering all the available evidence, I am dealing with him as an 18-year-old."
Mr Blandford said: "One knows perfectly well that many youngsters or children will often say they are older to get into clubs or do things that are age-specific."
The council's age assessment of Ahmadzai is the subject of a judicial review, to be heard at the High Court in November.