Criminal Cases Review Commission
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Conviction of Syrian asylum seeker referred to Crown Court

The CCRC has referred the conviction of a man who fled Syria and claimed asylum in the UK. The man left Syria after being required to join the army there and feared persecution if returned.  

Mr B arrived at Heathrow airport in April 2015 without a valid immigration document. He was arrested and later pleaded guilty at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court to an offence under the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004. He was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment.  

In October 2015, following his release, the Home Office granted him asylum with five years’ leave to remain. He has since been granted indefinite leave to remain. 

A thorough CCRC review of the case has found that Mr B had a statutory defence available to him under section 2 of the 2004 Act, namely a ‘reasonable excuse’ for failing to produce an immigration document. 

This defence would quite probably have succeeded but Mr B was not advised of its existence. Consequently, he entered a guilty plea that deprived him of the opportunity to present that defence. 

There is a real possibility that the ‘reasonable excuse’ defence will succeed on appeal and that the Crown Court will not uphold the conviction. 

Notes to editors 

  1. This release has been anonymised due to the nature of Mr B’s claim for asylum. 
  2.  An appeal from the magistrates’ court to the Crown Court takes the form of a re-hearing. 
  3. The CCRC cannot publicise operational detail about investigations and is bound by legal limitation on what we can share publicly from our case reviews (see section 23 of Criminal Appeal Act 1995).  
  4. The CCRC 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.  
  5. There are currently 10 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the King on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.  
  6. The CCRC 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.   
  7. The CCRC 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”.   
  8. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether to uphold the conviction or sentence. More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at The CCRC can be found on Twitter @ccrcupdate and Instagram the_ccrc . 
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