The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred for appeal the cannabis production conviction of a Vietnamese woman who was trafficked into the UK and twice trafficked within it.
T was arrested in July 2014 after police raided a property adapted for growing cannabis and containing more than 100 cannabis plants and two carrier bags of loose cannabis.
Later that month T appeared at Hendon Magistrates’ Court where, on the advice of a solicitor, she pleaded guilty to the production of cannabis. She was later sentenced at Harrow Crown Court to six months imprisonment.
Because Ms T pleaded guilty in a magistrates’ court she had no right of appeal.
In 2015, the First Tier Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber upheld her appeal against deportation and in doing so found that T had been a victim of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, then unpaid domestic service and finally work in a cannabis factory.
In 2016, the Home Office granted her refugee status. In early in 2017 the Home Office recognised T as a victim of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation; in 2019 it recognised her as a victim of modern slavery for the purposes of forced criminality.
She applied to the CCRC for a review of her cannabis production conviction in September 2018.
Having reviewed the case the Commission has decided to refer T’s conviction for appeal at the Crown Court.
The referral is made on the basis that evidence available at trial, and new evidence about T’s status as a victim of trafficking, gives rise to a real possibility that the Crown Court will conclude that to allow her guilty plea to stand would be an affront to justice and, as a result, will: allow T to vacate her guilty plea and enter a not guilty plea; establish whether or not the CPS intends to prosecute the case again, and, if it does, stay the proceedings.
Ms T was represented ion her application to the CCRC by Ms Phillipa Southwell Birds solicitors, 16 Wandsworth High Street, London, SW18 2PT.
This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 633 1806 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors
A referral by the Commission of a summary conviction (i.e. from a Youth Court or Magistrates’ Court) results in an appeal by way of a re-hearing at the Crown Court.
1. The Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.
2. There are currently 13 Commissioners who bring to the Commission considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.
3. The Commission usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.
4. The Commission considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal. Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.
5. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.
6. More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate