Bricklayer jailed for not handing Apple iPhone passcode to police during Hampshire murder investigation
A father who refused to hand over the passcode to his iPhone after being arrested as part of an investigation into a 'targeted assassination' was today jailed for 12 months.
Bricklayer Aston Hannis was stopped by police and arrested after Gurinderjit Rai's body was discovered in a black Ford Fiesta that was parked in a layby.A court today heard Mr Rai, 41, had suffered two shotgun wounds to the head - one to his chin and the other the temple - and was then left in the parked car close to a golf club in Corhampton in the Meon Valley.The day after his body was found, police stopped Hannis in Winchester while he was driving a black Audi, as part of their investigation, discovering a 'number of phones' in the vehicle.When detectives asked for the passcode to an iPhone X they believe belongs to him, the 28-year-old, who 'strongly denies' any involvement in the death of Mr Rai, refused to hand it over.The court heard he was 'scared' and feared that if he helped police he could be the 'next person to have bullets in his head'.Judge James Waddington QC today told Hannis there was no alternative but to jail him for his failure to assist with the investigation into the killing of Mr Rai.Prosecutor Philip Allman told Portsmouth Crown Court: ‘The facts of this case can be summarised fairly quickly.‘On Thursday July 13, a member of the public called the police to report a body had been found in a black Ford Fiesta. Police attended and confirmed the man was dead.‘They identified him as Mr Rai and post-mortem showed he sustained two gunshot wounds, one to the chin and one to the temple.‘This defendant, Aston Hannis, was stopped in a black Audi, on July 14. His vehicle was searched and a number of phones were found.‘One of those was a black Apple iPhone X that was nearby the steering wheel. The police could not gain access to that phone.‘When the defendant was interviewed, he refused to provide the code.’Representing Hannis, Fabienne Macey told the court her client had refused to hand over his passcode over fears for the safety of his own family and himself.She said: ‘Mr Hannis strongly denies being involved in [the death of Mr Rai]. At no stage was any evidence put to him by police linking him.‘He is scared. He told police that and he tells you that now through me.‘This was a targeted assassination of Mr Rai, as a result of organised drugs crime. He clearly states if he had given access to his phone, he would have been the next person to have bullets in his head or his family would be at risk.‘This is not him exaggerating. The concern of upsetting the wrong people was extremely fresh in his mind.’Hannis, of Winchester, admitted withholding information requested under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) which gives police the authority to demand access to electronic devices of suspects if they believe there is relevant information on them.Judge Waddington told him: ‘You declined to provide the passcode to the police so that they could continue their inquiries.‘I have been told that your reasoning for not doing so was because you were and are in fear of harm to yourself or your family by concern that others might be implicated.‘In my judgement, there can only be a sentence of immediate imprisonment.’Police continue to investigate the killing of Mr Rai.Paying tribute, his family said: ‘Gurinderjit was a devoted father to his two young children and a loving fiancé to his partner. He adored his parents.‘He had an infectious sense of humour and would always find the best of any situation.‘He was a principled man and would always be the first to offer help to those that needed it. He will be missed dearly by all his family and friends.’