It is possible to successfully defend a criminal offence if it was carried out as a result of slavery or exploitation.
Have you been charged with a criminal offence? We understand that this is a frightening time, but there is help available. Contact us at Ashmans Solicitors for free legal advice. Our criminal defence solicitors can represent you throughout proceedings. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act
Under section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, a person may defend their actions, if they were forced to commit a criminal offence due to slavery or exploitation. For the defence to succeed, it must be proven that a reasonable person in the same position with the same characteristics would have done the same thing.
This is precisely the defence that was used in a recent case involving a 15-year-old boy, known as M.
M was seen going into a KFC with two known young gang members, who had a history of carrying knives. All three were searched. M was found to have a hunting knife, along with packets of heroin and cocaine.
At trial, it was heard that M was in fact a missing child. He had been found in an area with which he had no connection. He had no previous cautions or convictions. And, he was with two boys with a significant criminal history involving drugs and bladed articles. The Single Competent Authority (SCA), which identifies cases of modern slavery in the UK, had also decided that M had been recruited, harboured and transported for the purposes of criminal exploitation.
The defence argued on M’s behalf that he was compelled to carry a knife and illegal substances because of modern slavery. The prosecution countered this argument, claiming the defence had failed to meet their evidential burden. This is a legal concept which, in this case, required the defence to provide sufficient evidence to prove that M was indeed a victim of modern slavery or exploitation. The District Judge dismissed this idea and M was acquitted.
The Court of Appeal
The case then went to the Court of Appeal. Once again, the question was: did the accused discharge the evidential burden on him in raising the defence? Once again, the Court found in M’s favour. It was satisfied that M had met the evidential burden, even though he had not given evidence himself. Instead, the direct evidence was enough to justify the conclusion reached by the District Judge, namely that M was a victim of exploitation and that his offending was in direct consequence.
When you instruct our criminal defence solicitors, we will explore every available defence. If modern slavery is a factor in your case, we will bring this to the court’s attention, arguing that you cannot be held accountable for your actions. If you become involved then you will need the services of modern slavery solicitors.
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