A REFUGEE who fled war-torn Syria travelled from London to Swindon in a bid to cheat his driving theory test – using a hidden Bluetooth device.

Khalil Alathoub claimed he just wanted to pass his test so he could drive his then unborn daughter around.

The case against Alathoub

Swindon Crown Court heard the 25-year-old booked a slot at the Swindon driving theory test centre, on Milton Road, in March 2018.

He requested a pair of over-ear headphones so he could hear the questions read out from the computer screen.

Test centre staff were instantly suspicious and put him at a desk closest to the invigilator and kept a constant watch over the CCTV.

Read more: Bluetooth headset used in attempt to cheat driving theory test

When they spotted him slipping something beneath the headphones they stopped the test and asked him to remove the device.

Video played to the court showed Alathoub retrieve the item and stash it in his clenched fist. He refused to open his hand, later telling Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency fraud investigators that he had had an accident at work and could not open his palm. Alathoub had earlier been caught on CCTV with an open palm.


Justin Davies, for the DVSA, said staff suspected the item was a Bluetooth headset enabling an accomplice nearby to listen in to the questions played over the headphones and relay the answers to the candidate.

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A Bluetooth device found by the DVSA in a similar recent case

The agency was aware of an increasing number of would-be drivers using the wireless devices to try and cheat the system, Mr Davies told the court. Last year, Swindon Crown Court heard staff at the Swindon theory test centre were able to seize a Bluetooth device after it tumbled from a would-be cheat's ear when staff suspicious he was concealing something below his headphones confronted him about their concerns.


Alathoub, of Coronation Road, north west London, had denied possession or control of an article for using in fraud but was found guilty at trial at Swindon Magistrates’ Court last year and committed to the crown court for sentence.

Amy Oliver, defending, said her client had fled the Syrian civil war aged 18. He arrived in the UK in 2014 and was granted asylum, later bringing his young wife to London under family repatriation rules.

Alathoub and his wife had a daughter, now 16 months old. He had hoped to pass his driving test in order to be able to drive his girl to places, Ms Oliver said. He had not gamed the theory test so he could get driving work, for example as a cabbie.

He had quit his last job after his boss asked him to work seven days a week. He was actively looking for employment, but currently claimed state benefits.

Ms Oliver asked any term of imprisonment be suspended, citing the adverse impact on his wife and baby: “He’s a young man who’s fled conflict in his home country. He’s been granted asylum here and has set up a life here.”

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The defendant outside Swindon Crown Court

Judge Jason Taylor QC sentenced Alathoub to 10 months imprisonment suspended for two years, 250 hours of unpaid work and ordered he pay £3,588 costs to the DVSA.

Read more: Two men avoid jail for trying to cheat driving theory test

He said: “You were cheating, plain and simple, and your excuses and explanations were and are wholly implausible.”

The judge added: “Your card is now marked. You have a conviction for dishonesty in this country. If you commit any further offence during the currency of the suspended sentence order the presumption is that sentence will be activated and you will go to prison. Do you understand that?"

Judge Taylor’s sentencing remarks in full

“Staff were instantly suspicious and their instincts were proved well founded, because when they monitored you they clearly saw you inserting a device into the headphones. That device no doubt was a Bluetooth device which would have enabled someone outside of the centre to hear the questions and relay the answers to you.

“You were challenged by staff. You refused to show what had been in the headphones.

“You put it in a clenched fist which you would not open and did not before you left.

“In interview you denied what in my judgement is clearly shown in the CCTV footage.

“You were cheating, plain and simple, and your excuses and explanations were and are wholly implausible.

“You have no previous convictions. There is a guideline for this offence. It’s not overly helpful but doing the best I can to adapt it to these facts it falls within medium culpability. There are characteristics that don’t easily fit in other categories, but having said that it must be higher up that range because you were playing a leading role in what was at the very least a group activity of two.

“There must have been considerable planning. You booked a test centre out of London. You drove to Swindon and must have made arrangements with the other person to be nearby and additionally you bought or obtained the device that would enable you to cheat.

“I take the view that it is greater harm. The reason it is greater harm is because the [DVSA] loses the ability to safely monitor those who may end up driving on the roads and theory is an essential part of the driving skill."

'Not a victimless crime'

“Bypassing that is not a victimless crime. It creates a real and present danger to road users in the event that you receive your licence.

“For medium culpability greater harm that gives a starting point of six months with a range of up to two years.

“There is obviously an aggravating feature in that you concealed and disposed of the evidence – and from what I have been told by the prosecuting authority this practice of manipulating the theory test is becoming increasingly common so there is a wider impact.

“In mitigation you have no previous convictions, it is unsophisticated and it is isolated.

“Your counsel has not sought to argue that this case does not pass the custody threshold.

“The message must be crystal clear: cheating in this way will be viewed extremely seriously.

“The million dollar question is whether the sentence is immediate or suspended.

“I form the view that you have strong personal mitigation that is you fled Syria and were granted asylum in this country in 2014, you have a young family and you are seeking work. I also find there would be an impact on others notably your wife and your young baby and they are innocent victims in this."


“Therefore notwithstanding that I am deeply unimpressed by your continued dishonesty and denial of what to me seems obvious and compelling evidence I am nonetheless going to suspend the term of imprisonment.

“The sentence will be 10 months which will be suspended for two years.

“As part of that you can do 250 hours of unpaid work.

I see no reason why the prosecuting authority should bear the costs of your dishonest behaviour. You will pay the whole costs of £3,588.

“In light of your limited means I’m not going to impose a fine on top of that, although I would very much have liked it.

“You have offered £40 per month. I have not been given a detailed breakdown but I don’t accept that’s all the money you have available. I’m going to say you can pay that at the rate of £150 a month. That means the fine will be repaid in approximately two years. If you are able to pay it off sooner it is in your interests to do that.

“The victim surcharge will also apply and that will be drawn up administratively."

'Card marked'

“Your card is now marked. You have a conviction for dishonesty in this country. If you commit any further offence during the currency of the suspended sentence order the presumption is that sentence will be activated and you will go to prison. Do you understand that?

“I hope you reflect and the courts never see you again.”