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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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I would like to withdraw my countersignature from a passport

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I would like to withdraw my countersignature from a passport application, I erroneously signed the form as a favour from a friend, and now I can't go through with it. I have a letter from the passport office requesting me to confirm the details of the person for whom I signed the form but I know what I've done is wrong and no longer wish to be a part of the process.

How can I do this? If I write a letter stipulating the above does this automatically trigger a criminal process? What are the consequences for me? What are the consequences for the passport applicant?
Hi

Thank you for your question and welcome to Just Answer. I will try to help with this. Please RATE my answer OK SERVICE or above.

In what way did you erroneously sign?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I signed section 10 of the passport form, saying that I knew this person for 3 years, and that they were my cleaner.


The passport is for their new born daughter, and they are Lithuanian passport holders.
Whats your occupation?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Not sure how that's relevant but I work in the financial services industry
In what capacity?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I'm a FSA registered trader for the firm, but I work more in customer relations for trading clients.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
no

OK.

Actually for a child application you are just verifying that you have known the person who signs at S9 for more than 2 years so you may or may not have been able to do that truthfully anyway.

However, I imagine you are saying that you have certified a falsehood and that does need to be handled carefully.

A criminal prosecution does not always result. Actually all these offences against public justice are pretty rarely prosecuted although they are on the increase now. There's no real logic behind the prosecutions that are brought. Sometimes they fail to act on very serious cases and do act on very minor ones.

As a general rule you are more likely to be prosecuted for this type of offence the more professional your occupation. I think the justification is basically that such a person is more likely to be believed than anybody else and so when they lie its an aggravating feature.

If you write a letter confessing everything though then you do place yourself at risk of prosecution. Of course, that could happen anyway but there is no point in making it more likely.

Equally you must withdraw to avoid further aggravating any offence. One option is to write back merely saying that your original declaration was mistaken and that you have not, in fact, known this person for that length of time or whatever otherwise it was that was false. It amounts to much the same thing but at least it doesn't set down in writing that you conspired to deceive them.

In fairness, sometimes people could genuinely believe that they have known a person longer than they thought and realise after certifying that they are not able to do so. I realise that isn't whats happened here but the point is that withdrawals do sometimes happen.

Sorry thats probably not the answer you wanted but it is the position that you have and I have a duty to give you truthful and accurate information even though its not what I want to say.

Hope this helps. Please rate my answer OK SERVICE or above and then I will continue with this for free.
Jo C. and other UK Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for your help. I'm happy to rate your service well, once I work out how.

So if I read your answer correctly, I have already committed the offence. I agree I must withdraw. What follow up actions are the passport office likely to take? This is likely to be flagged as an exception and I assume they have a process that they must follow to prove they've showed due diligence?
If you have certified something you know to be false then you have committed an offence. Of course, they don't know that you have done this deliberately and its for the Crown to prove it. While you cannot maintain a falsehood you don't have to run around confessing to everything.

If you withdraw they will either take no action or make a report to the police. Its a false statement on oath which is perjury.
Jo C. and other UK Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I take it that ignoring the request for verification is not a viable option, they'll continue to ask for verification, and things will escalate?

Also how should one phrase the letter for maximum 'protection'. The points they specifically have asked about is, if I remember signing section 10. If the form was already filled out, and to confirm their name and address.


They're not asking to confirm how long I've known the individual.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I'm sorry to hassle I need advice on how to write this letter. It also states that I should reply on business headed note paper. If I am to withdraw this countersignature should I still do this. I do not wish to add a reptuational risk to the firm who employ me.
It may work. They may give in. I wouldn't suggest it though because they you would not have withdrawn your verification.

I certainly wouldn't reply on headed notepaper.

The reason for that request is just to check your occupation
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
ok thanks - I appreciate that you cannot give specific advice. Should I write the letter as "without prejudice"?
No, waste of time. It relates to civil matters.

It also sounds quite litigious so not a good idea.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
ok, I think I'm almost there, should I address the points that they requested in the letter, or would that make the situation worse?

is it enough to simply state that I was mistaken and that i now realise that I haven't known the person the required length of time and that I now feel I must withdraw my countersignature?
No, you cannot do that. You cannot tell more lies. This is really important.

Its not ethical to lie in the course of legal proceedings anyway but also if you start telling more lies then that will aggravate the offence you have committed.

What you can do though is just say you would like to withdraw as you realise now that you are mistaken and that you are not able to certify this particular person.

The truth is that it might not be sufficient. They may well want a thorough explanation and if they do then you will have no choice but to tell the truth. Unfortunately the truth isn't very flattering here though and thats why its helpful to start with withdrawing in a neutral way. They may leave it at that.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Many thanks for you help once more. Should I include the letter they sent me in my response? Or should I send my response separately?
I wouldn't include the letter.

This is an exercise in saying as little as possible but still making the points that must be made in the hope that they will let you save face.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
in your opinion, what action are they likely take? Are they likely to follow up? Do you have experience of this?
Yes, but not in a case like this.

As I've said, they can be entirely inconsistent with public justice offences. Most of the cases that I've seen have involved much more serious and widespread scams where people purporting to be professionals were signing off false passports from certain countries more than others.

That said, sometimes they will prosecute a person who has done something entirely out of character.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
is there a specific length of time by which I would know if they were going to pursue it?
No, its an indictable offence.

Usually a couple of months though.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok hopefully my final question - should I include their reference on my letter or should I just refer to the name of the person applying?
You can include their reference. It wouldn't make the situation worse.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Many thanks for your help - it's much appreciated.
No problem. All the best.

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