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Evidence in Court – Credibility

This case assesses the credibility of witnesses and how witness statements can add reliability to another witness' evidence. 

Evidence in Court – Credibility

SA (Iran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 2575

This case assesses the credibility of witnesses and how witness statements can add reliability to another witness’ evidence. 

Facts

The Claimant was a national of Iran. She entered the United Kingdom with her son in September 2007 as a visitor, in order to visit her sister.

Her sister converted from Islam to Christianity and had been granted Asylum in the United Kingdom.

The Claimant also converted from Islam to Christianity in November 2007. She claimed Asylum in December 2007 in the United Kingdom which was rejected. Then, she appealed in 2010.

However, the appeal was dismissed on the grounds that the Judge did not believe her grounds to be credible. He disbelieved her claim that she would face a real risk of suffering harm from her violent husband. He also did not believe that she would face persecution if she was forced to return to Iran.

The First Tier Tribunal Judge disbelieved that she ‘genuinely’ converted from Islam to Christianity.

Her permission to appeal against the dismissal of her appeal and her application to the Upper Tribunal were both refused.

Therefore, she submitted a fresh claim in 2011 with new evidence. The new evidence included a witness statement from her son, which stated that his father had been violent towards him and his mother. Additionally, the son stated that his father was very religious and had urged him to attend the mosque.

Medical evidence was also produced to evidence that the son was suffering from depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

However, her fresh claim was rejected on the grounds that it was a repetition of the grounds that she initially submitted before the First-Tier Tribunal.

She applied for Judicial Review to the High Court and the decision has been outlined as per below.

Decision

The issue, in this case, was whether the Claimant’s Asylum application and other claims were clearly unfounded, therefore, capable of being certified.

The test is ‘if on at least one legitimate view of the facts or the law the claim may succeed, the claim will not be clearly unfounded’ as per Lord Phillips in ZL & Anor [2003].

The new evidence submitted by the Claimant fell into two parts:

1) Her son’s witness statement confirming that his father had been abusive to him and his mother; and

2) The medical evidence that her son was suffering from a mental illness.

The Judge highlighted that a fresh claim should be sufficiently different from the earlier claim. Also, it must have a positive prospect of success.

The Home Secretary had no evidential basis to exclude the medical evidence. Additionally, expert psychiatric evidence cannot be ignored especially when it is supported by physical examination of the son’s injuries.

Therefore, the medical evidence corroborated the son’s statement that his father had been violent towards him and his mother.

Furthermore, you can add credibility to a witness’s evidence, if another witness, such as her son, corroborates that story.  This is same for criminal lawyers who call for as many eyewitnesses to defend their case.

Thus, the Home Secretary should not have disregarded this long-standing concept.

The Judge highlighted his concern regarding the Home Secretary’s treatment of the risk to apostates in Iran.

The Home Secretary used country guidance report from 2010 to assess the Claimant’s risk of persecution if she returned to Iran. The 2010 report indicated that there was no risk of death for apostasy. However, just because there is no execution, it does not justify the Home Secretary’s conclusion that there would be no persecution.

Lastly, you cannot look into an individual’s soul to assess whether they have ‘genuinely’ converted in faith. Moreover, it is difficult to evidence an individual’s faith.

Consequently, the claim cannot be regarded as unfounded.

 

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