The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the conviction of Mr D to the Court of Appeal.
Mr D, an Iranian national, was arrested at Heathrow airport after attempting to use a false passport to board a flight to Canada.
In interview he accepted he had tried to use the false passport, which he bought for $8,000 from an agent in Turkey, to travel to Canada where he had planned to claim asylum. He said he was fleeing persecution in Iran due to his conversion from Islam to Christianity.
Mr D’s legal representatives told him that the statutory defence under section 31 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 was not available to him and advised him to plead guilty.
In January 2012, Mr D pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court to possessing a false passport with intent contrary to section 4 of the Identity Documents Act 2010. He was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment.
Having reviewed the case, the Commission has decided to refer Mr D’s conviction to the Court of Appeal. The referral is made on the basis that: Mr D had a statutory defence available to him under section 31 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999; it is likely that the legal advice provided to Mr D deprived him of that defence and therefore his plea amounts to a nullity; on the evidence now available, the section 31 defence would probably have succeeded and, as a result, there is a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will set aside his guilty plea and quash his conviction.
Mr D was represented in his application to the Commission by Kesar & Co Solicitors, 27 London Road, Bromley, Kent. BR1 1DG
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.
The Commission has agreed to anonymise Mr D because of concerns that he may still be the target of reprisals.
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.
Notes for editors
1. The Criminal Cases Review 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 twelve 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.