The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the conviction of Miss L to the Crown Court.
Miss L, an Ethiopian national, was arrested at Heathrow Airport in May 2004 as she tried to board an international flight using a false British passport.
Ms L was questioned by police and subsequently charged with using a false instrument contrary to sections 3 and 6 of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, and with attempting to obtain services by deception contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981.
She was remanded in custody and later pleaded guilty to both charges at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court. She was sentenced to a total of three months’ imprisonment.
Having pleaded guilty in a magistrate’s court, Ms L had no right of appeal against her conviction. She applied to the Commission for a review of her convictions in 2012.
Ms L was granted asylum in 2008 on the basis that she was a member of the Oromo Liberation Front, a journalist who reported on anti-government matters, and that there was evidence she had been detained, raped and otherwise mistreated in Ethiopia and faced further persecution if she returned. She has since been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Having reviewed the case in detail, the Commission has decided to refer Ms L’s convictions to the Crown Court. This referral is made in the basis that it is now known that Ms L was at all times a genuine refugee who was compelled to commit the offences by the UK’s failure to recognise her status.
The Commission therefore considers that there is a real possibility that the Crown Court will conclude that, in all the circumstances, it should allow Ms L to vacate her guilty pleas and enter not guilty pleas and be acquitted of the offences or that the Crown Court would stay any fresh prosecution as an abuse of process.
This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 232 0906 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors
1. The Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for 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 12 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 1,500 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Typically, around 3.5%, or one in 29, of all applications are referred 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.