Commission refers the convictions of seven people convicted of travel document offences

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred for appeal the travel document offences of seven individuals.

All seven arrived in the UK without passports and were charged with failing to produce an immigration document contrary section 2(1) of the Asylum and Immigration (treatment of claimants) Act 2004). They had arrived from various countries including Iran, Iraq, Pakistan Syria, and Zimbabwe.

All were advised by legal aid lawyers to plead guilty in the magistrates’ court and each was sent to prison for a few months. All have since been granted leave to remain in the UK.

Because they pleaded guilty in the magistrates’ court, they have no right of appeal and all applied to the CCRC to contest their convictions.

Having considered these cases, the Commission has decided to refer them for appeal at the Crown Court. The referrals are made on the basis that the applicants could not have made an informed choice as to plea because the legal advice they each received was incorrect and they should have been advised that they were entitled to rely on the statutory defence available under section 2 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) etc. Act 2004; namely that he had a reasonable excuse for not having a travel document.

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

In light of the circumstances of their arrival and seeking asylum in the UK, the Commission has agreed to conceal the identities of the applicants who did not wish their names to be made public. Therefore the six anonymous referrals will be being recorded by the Commission as individuals B,C,D,E, F and G. The seventh applicant whose cases has been referred is Mr Elvis Bhebe, who arrived in the UK in August 2005.

These cases are among a number involving asylum seekers and refugees that the Commission has referred to the appeal courts in recent 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/law/in-defence-of-refugees/5037642.article

and at:

www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/ccrc-concern-over-advice-given-to-refugees/66102.fullarticle

 

This press release was issued by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. For further enquires call  0121 233 1473 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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”.

 

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

 

  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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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”.

 

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

 

More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate and on Facebook.