Commission refers the case of R

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the conviction of Mr R to the Crown Court.

Mr R, an Eritrean national, arrived at Heathrow airport on 23rd May 2007 on a flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was unable to produce a passport or other identity document and sought to claim asylum on the basis that he had escaped from prison in Eritrea where he had been persecuted as a member of the Pentecostal faith.

On 24th May 2007, Mr R was arrested by police on suspicion of arriving in the United Kingdom without a valid passport or travel document. Later that day he was interviewed under caution with an interpreter and solicitor present.

The next day, R appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates Court and, on advice from the solicitor, pleaded guilty to failing to produce a document contrary to section 2 Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. He was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment.

On 15 August 2007, Mr R was granted refugee status with five years’ leave to remain. He applied to the Commission for a review of his case in March 2014.

After a detailed review of the case, the Commission has decided to refer Mr R’s conviction to the Crown Court. The referral is made on the basis that Mr R should have been entitled to rely on the statutory defence available under section 2(4)(c) of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) etc. Act 2004; namely that he had a reasonable excuse for not producing a genuine immigration document.

The Commission therefore considers there is a real possibility that the Crown Court will conclude that, in all the circumstances, it should allow Mr R to vacate his guilty plea on the basis that he was deprived of a defence that was likely to have succeeded.

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.

Two articles written by the Commission discussing other cases and explaining the issues and the law in this area can be seen on the Law Society Gazette website at:
www.lawgazette.co.uk/in-practice/practice-points/ccrc-concern-over-advice-given-refugees
and at:
www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/ccrc-concern-over-advice-given-to-refugees/66102.fullarticle
This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 232 0906 or e-mail press@ccrc.gov.uk
Notes for editors

1. The Commission has anonymised Mr R in this press release because of concerns about his safety and security.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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”.

6. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.