The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the conviction of Ms A to the Crown Court in light of a change in law and fresh evidence that she is a victim of human trafficking both into and within the UK, and that it was not in the public interest to prosecute her.
On 19 August 2005 Ms A 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 obtaining a pecuniary advantage. She was sentenced to a total of 14 months in prison.
Ms A arrived in the UK in 2003 fleeing sexual exploitation and Female Genital Mutilation in her home country of Cameroon.
She was arrested in 2005 while working at a phone repair shop. In interview she told police that she had been threatened into using a false passport to get the job and then into stealing customers SIM cards.
She was granted asylum in the UK in 2009. In February 2018, after a referral to the National Referral Mechanism (the “NRM”), the Home Office recognised that there were conclusive grounds to believe that Ms A was a victim of trafficking in relation to being trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation and trafficked within the UK for sexual exploitation and to work as forced labour.
Because Ms A pleaded guilty in the magistrates’ court in 2005, she did not have an ordinary right to appeal. She applied to the CCRC in relation to her conviction in June 2018.
Having reviewed the case in detail, the Commission has decided to refer Ms A’s conviction for appeal at the Crown Court.
The referral is based on new legal argument relating to a change in the law identified in the case of R v GS  EWCA Crim 1824 and the fresh evidence as to Ms A’s trafficked status. Together they give rise to a real possibility that the Crown Court will find that it would be an affront to justice to allow Ms A’s original guilty pleas to stand; that the Crown would decide it was not in the public interest to seek a rehearing; and that an attempt to seek a rehearing would stayed by the Crown Court as an abuse of process.
Ms A was represented in her application to the CCRC by Ms Phillipa Southwell of Birds Solicitors.
This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 07947 355231 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 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.