On 3rd September, 2021, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (“CCRC”) announced that the conviction of an applicant known as “Ms G” has been referred to the relevant Crown Court for an appeal hearing.
This is the third referral since 19th August, 2021, following the cases of Gavin Trendell referred the previous day (read more here) and Texo Johnson, the fourth member of a group widely known as “The Stockwell Six“.
Last month, three other members of the “Stockwell Six” (Courtney Harriot, Paul Green and Cleveland Davidson) had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal, following earlier referrals by the CCRC (read more here).
The Stockwell Six are represented by Jenny Wiltshire of Hickman and Rose, one of the top criminal appeal firms in the country.
It is fair to say that the case of Mrs G is much less complex and controversial; on 20th March 2012, she pleaded guilty to a single charge of failure to produce an immigration document pursuant to s2(1) and (9) of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004. She was sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment by the magistrates’ court. The location of which is not revealed in order to preserve anonymity.
Ms G, an Iranian national, arrived in the UK at Heathrow airport on 16th March 2012. Although she had travelled on a genuine passport, she had given this to the transit agent who facilitated her travel, on the understanding that he needed them to obtain visas for their onward travel to Canada. The agent disappeared in the airport and Ms G had no option other than to claim asylum.
– The CCRC has decided to refer Ms G’s case for an appeal because:
– There is a statutory defence of “reasonable excuse” to this offence;
– There is a real possibility that the Crown Court will find that this defence would quite probably have succeeded in Ms G’s case; and
Ms G was not advised of the existence of the statutory defence before she entered her plea.
As Ms G pleaded guilty in the magistrates’ court, she cannot appeal her conviction directly. The CCRC has decided that this gives rise to “exceptional circumstances” that allow a referral by the CCRC in the absence of an earlier appeal.
Ms G was not represented in her application to the CCRC. Very many find themselves in the same situation as published figures show that over 80% of such applications to the watchdog are made in person.
The Criminal Case Review 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.
There are currently 11 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.
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.
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”.
If a case is referred, it is then for the relevant appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair. A short film about the work of the CCRC can be viewed here:
Page last updated: Friday 3rd September, 2021 at 1320 hours
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Picture credit: Hickman and Rose
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