The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the conviction of Mr Q to the Crown Court.
Mr Q, an Iranian national, arrived at Stansted Airport in February 2006. He was in possession of a counterfeit Belgian passport. He said he was fleeing Iran and wanted to claim asylum in the UK.
Mr Q was arrested on suspicion of using a false the passport contrary to section 3 of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. In interview, Mr Q explained that he had been monitored by the Iranian government because of his political activities and that they had thereby discovered that he was homosexual; homosexuality is illegal in Iran and is punishable by death.
Mr Q was advised by a solicitor that he had no defence under s.31 of the Immigration and Asylum Act to the charge of using a false instrument. The therefore pleaded guilty at Harlow Magistrates Court on 6th February 2006. His case was committed to for sentence at Chelmsford Crown Court where he was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment.
Because Mr Q pleaded guilty in a magistrate’s court he was not entitled to appeal against his conviction. He applied to the Commission for a review of his case in February 2014.
After a detailed review of the case, the Commission has decided to refer Mr Q’s conviction to the Crown Court. The referral is made on the basis that he should have been entitled to the statutory defence available to him under section 31 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The Commission therefore considers there is a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will conclude that, in all the circumstances, it should set aside his guilty plea and quash his conviction on the basis that he was deprived of a defence that was likely to succeed.
Mr Q has not been legally represented during his application to the Commission.
This case is one of several involving asylum seekers and refugees that the Commission has referred to the appeal courts in recent months. Several other cases raising similar issues are currently being investigated by the Commission. An article written by the Commission explaining the issues and the law in this area can be seen on the Law Society Gazette website at:
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.