A fraudster who travelled around the country taking examinations for refugees to help get them visas or citizenship has been jailed for 32 months.

Ahmed Ali tried to take four examinations for people who wanted to be UK citizens at test centres in Slough, Liverpool, Croydon and Ilford in the year to December 2016.

Ali, 34, a Somalian with gambling debts, used false passports and travel documents in his efforts to dupe the system but was spotted by officials who became suspicious, Croydon Crown Court heard.

Ali, of Highams Park, north-east London, admitted four counts of fraud by false representation and four counts of possessing identity documents with intent.

Judge Daniel Flahive told Ali that he was an "imposter" who had launched a "deliberate targeting of the system" to help those who might not obtain what they wanted in terms of settlement or citizenship.

He was sentenced to eight months for each count.

He was sentenced for one count of fraud and a count of possession of identity documents arising from each visit to the four test centres.

These two counts from each visit are to run concurrently giving a total of eight months.

The judge said that each of these sentences will run consecutively to give a total of 32 months behind bars.

Ali used bogus travel documents when he attended a test centre in Liverpool in December 2015 and in Slough in February 2016.

The father-of-five, who fled Somalia in 1994, was using a false Somali passport when he was arrested at a Croydon test centre in June 2016.

Despite then being arrested and bailed Ali was again caught with a false Somali passport at a test centre in Ilford, Essex, in December 2016.

Prosecutor Andrew Ramsubhag said: "The test is a requisite for being granted UK citizenship.

"As a result of Mr Ali's actions the people who he was pretending to be could have been granted full UK citizenship had the authorities at the test centres not apprehended him at the time.

"None of the applications he sat resulted in those persons he was impersonating being granted UK citizenship."

Ali came to England as a refugee, does not speak good English and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Sally Lakin defending said Ali's actions had sprung from his "significant gambling" debts and that he felt pressured into carrying out the crimes.

She told the court "he certainly was not the mastermind of this offence".

She said: "He was very much a puppet in somebody else's theatre, someone higher up was pulling strings telling Mr Ali where he must go, what he should do and where he should attend."

Ali was caught trying to take the Life in the UK tests, which are a key part of the application for British citizenship or settlement in the UK.

Those wanting to gain citizenship or remain in Britain must pass a language test and answer 24 questions in 45 minutes about British traditions and customs.

To take the test applicants must produce a passport or UK driving licence, travel documents, a legitimate identity card or immigration documents.