The Appeal Court has criticised the lawyers of five refugees who were wrongly jailed for carrying false documents after fleeing their countries under the threat of persecution.
It was “surprising and disturbing” that their legal teams did not know there was a valid defence to protect those in fear of losing their lives or freedom, three judges ruled.
The five - who included a husband and wife - were jailed for between six months and a year after being found to be carrying false papers after arriving in Britain.
They included a Congolese man who faced death threats for his political stance and an Iranian couple arrested in 2012 as they tried to reach Canada because they feared imprisonment and ill-treatment.
“It is both surprising and disturbing that neither solicitors nor counsel appear to have been aware of the position in law and we repeat that this situation should not recur in the future,” said Lord Justice Leveson in a written ruling.
Prosecutors said they would not appeal against the ruling. Ben Douglas-Jones, junior counsel for the prosecution, said: “He (Leveson) has made it clear that he wants to kill this issue stone dead.”