Sentences overturned for men who drove canoes across the English Channel | Immigration and asylum

The convictions of four asylum seekers for driving small boats across the Channel were deemed dangerous by the appeals court in a decision that identified systemic flaws in such prosecutions.

The three judges in charge of the case said the convictions “must be overturned in due course”. Three of the men who appealed had their convictions overturned on Tuesday; a fourth man’s appeal is pending as the prosecution requests a retrial of his case.

The four men were sentenced after being filmed driving rubber dinghies carrying asylum seekers across the Channel.

But the judges said that in order to secure convictions in cases like this, the prosecution must prove that the person accused of operating the boat “knew or had reasonable grounds to believe that his act was helping entry. or was trying to enter the UK without leaving “.

The men were all appealing the sentences passed in Canterbury Crown Court for aiding illegal immigration by piloting small boats across the Channel.

Lord Justice Edis, Ms Justice May and Mr Justice Blake heard the case.

They said in their ruling: “We invited the Crown Prosecution Service to help us with how the law has been misunderstood during the investigation, prosecution and prosecution of these cases. “

The new orientations of the CPS concerning this type of case were welcomed in the judgment.

The judgment says criminal investigations and subsequent prosecutions were launched without careful analysis of the law and proper advice to those who conduct interviews, make indictment decisions and bring cases to court.

“It also appears that judges in the small number of courts where these cases are tried and defense practitioners have followed the mistaken view of the law that has developed without doing their own analysis, which has resulted in a shared approach. wrong. While this is obviously far from ideal, assigning the blame is less important than sorting out the consequences, ”the ruling states.

All four who were sentenced helped steer the boats they were traveling in, were intercepted by Border Force ships, escorted to shore, and then taken to the Kent Admission Unit for the initial treatment of their asylum applications.

The four men whose sentences were deemed dangerous are: Samyar Ahmadii Bani, 38, of Iran, who was convicted in November 2019 and sentenced to six years in prison; Mohamoud al Anzi, 55, from Kuwait, who was convicted in February 2021 and sentenced to three years and nine months; Fariboz Taher Rakei, 60, of Iran, who was convicted in March 2021 and sentenced to four years and six months; and Ghodratallah Donyamali Zadeh, 37, of Iran, the only person to plead guilty, who was sentenced to two years in October 2020.

The CPS requests a new trial in the Rakei case. Seven more cases raising similar questions are due in court in January.

Tuesday’s decision is the latest in a string of blows to the government, with the new nationality and borders bill increasing penalties for those accused of operating rubber dinghies across the Channel.

The Home Secretary has suffered a string of High Court defeats this year. These include: having to make payments to victims of trafficking whose financial support was cut off at the start of the pandemic; be required to grant a residence permit to victims of trafficking; and having to offer protections to people in immigration detention who have HIV.

Ben Stuttard, a lawyer at Commons who represented Zadeh, welcomed the decision. “Cases pending in Crown court will undoubtedly be considered by prosecuting authorities and some cases may be dropped. Mr. Zadeh and others served prison terms under appalling conditions for a crime they did not commit and were denied the opportunity to defend themselves fairly.

Karen Doyle, founding member of the Justice Movement, also welcomed the judgment. “This judgment clearly indicates that seeking asylum is not a crime. However, several asylum seekers are still on trial in 2022 and several are still in prison.

A spokesperson for the CPS said: “We will not hesitate to prosecute those suspected of immigration offenses if our legal test for prosecution is met and [the offences are] against the law as it currently exists.

“Since these cases have been prosecuted, new judgments have clarified a very complicated section of the law. Over the summer, we released revised guidelines – taking into account recent judgments – regarding the prosecution of those who exploit and profit from the desperation of others or put lives at risk by controlling or piloting small overcrowded boats on the world’s busiest shipping channel or by confining them to trucks.

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