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R v Mullen [2000] QB 520

Abuse of process; deportation; alleged collusion

(307 words)


Mullen was brought back to England from Zimbabwe due to being wanted by the police. Upon his arrival, he was arrested and later convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. His application for leave to appeal his sentence was refused, however, he could later appeal his conviction.


There was evidence that English and Zimbabwean security services had colluded to make it impossible for Mullen to get access to a lawyer during his deportation. Mullen did not complain about the trial itself, he purely relied on the circumstances of his deportation and lack of access to a lawyer as reasons for his “unsafe” conviction within the meaning of s. 2(1)(a) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 (as substituted by s. 2 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995).


The Court of Appeal allowed Mullen’s appeal. It held that while Mullen was certainly guilty (he himself admitted to have been properly convicted following a fair trial), he was still a victim of abuse of the lawful administration of justice. The Court directed that the severity of the offence alleged had to be weighed against the authorities’ conduct – i.e. the authorities must have been aware of the essential need for legal advice during detention and deportation. Denial of access to legal advice breached not only Zimbabwean law but also Mullen’s human rights. Had Mullen’s rights been respected, he may not have been tried in England. The Court of Appeal found that the prosecution omission to voluntarily disclose information relevant to Mullen’s defence also had to be taken into account. Mullen could rely on s. 2(1)(a) of 1968 Act and claim his conviction was “unsafe” even if the sole ground of appeal was that the prosecution was an abuse of process (lack of objection during trial was not fatal to the appeal).

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