We continue to receive applications from refugees and victims of human trafficking.
This year we referred three such cases; HA, MU, KI (and five last year). During 2020-2021, the appellate courts allowed appeals in four references. The four appeals quashed were MA, TX, SA and HA.
MA was born and raised in Cameroon. She was subjected to sexual abuse, torture, and violence. She escaped and made a claim for asylum on arrival in the UK in 2003. Her claim was refused, and she became homeless.
MA met an individual who provided her with accommodation and a false passport. She was encouraged to use the false passport as proof of identity to get a job in a mobile phone shop. She was required to pay for the accommodation and false passport from her earnings and by stealing SIM cards. MA was arrested when the theft of SIM cards became known, and the police discovered she was using a false identity document. In August 2005, MA pleaded guilty at Stoke-on-Trent Magistrates’ Court to two counts of theft, two counts of dishonestly obtaining communication services, possession of a false instrument (a passport) and using it to obtain a pecuniary advantage. She was sentenced to a total of 14 months in prison.
In 2009, MA was granted asylum and in 2018, the Home Office recognised that she was a victim of trafficking and forced labour. Because MA pleaded guilty in the magistrates’ court in 2005, she did not have an ordinary right to appeal. It was recognised that the law has evolved considerably and now gives greater protection to victims of trafficking. Specifically, changes to the CPS guidance indicate that MA should not have been prosecuted at the time and that R v GS  EWCA Crim 1824 would suggest that she would have had a good defence to any charges brought.
TX was a Vietnamese national who was trafficked to the UK and arrested in July 2014 following a police raid on a property adapted for growing cannabis. Later that month and following legal advice, she pleaded guilty to a charge relating to the cultivation of cannabis and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.
In 2016, the Home Office recognised TX as a refugee and, in 2019, as a victim of modern slavery for the purposes of forced criminality. These findings suggested that the conviction was an affront to justice. She was permitted to vacate her guilty plea and her conviction was quashed.