The Commission refers the conviction of Ms T

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the conviction of Ms T to the Crown Court.

Ms T, an Iranian national, arrived at Gatwick Airport in July 2009. She was unable to provide valid travel documents and sought to claim asylum in the UK on the basis that she was wanted by the authorities in Iran because she had escaped detention following her involvement in a demonstration against the results of the presidential elections.

On the day that she arrived in the UK, she was charged with failing to have a satisfactory immigration document contrary to sections 2(1) and (9) of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. The following day she pleaded guilty at Crawley Magistrates’ Court and was sentence to two months’ imprisonment.

In December 2009 Ms T was granted asylum with five years’ leave to remain.

Ms T had no right of appeal against her conviction because she had pleaded guilty in a magistrates’ court. She applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission for a review of her case in December 2013.

Having looked in detail at Ms T’s case, the Commission has decided to refer her conviction to the Crown Court. The referral is made of the basis that Ms T should have been entitled to a statutory defence under section 2(4) (c) of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004; namely she had a reasonable excuse for not producing a genuine immigration document.

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 T to vacate her guilty plea on the basis that she was deprived of a defence that was likely to succeed.

This case is one of more than 30 convictions involving asylum seekers and refugees that the Commission has referred to the appeal courts in the last three years. 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 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.