No. 39 of #50cases.
Trafficking is a vile crime, affecting the most vulnerable in society. Trafficked people are often forced to do things which are against the law. The question is, are they criminals? Should they be punished for acting in a way that is against the law when their acts were a direct result of being trafficked?
Three children from Vietnam were prosecuted for helping to grow cannabis, and one woman in her mid-thirties pleaded guilty to possessing a false passport. All were victims of trafficking. In any other situation they would be severely punished. The court said the fact they had been trafficked did not allow them to be let off all criminal offences. However, if they have been forced to do the crime, the court could stop a prosecution from continuing. Given three of the possible criminals were children, the first thing the court had to consider was their best interests. If there was reason to believe they were children but it was unclear, they should be treated as such.
What was so important about this case is that the court reexaimed the prosecutions though the lens of protections under human rights and anti-trafficking law. New evidence showed that all four potential criminals were forced to commit their respective crimes as part of being trafficked. The Lord Chief Justice said these weren’t criminals, they were victims of a “vile trade”. The court allowed them to go free, and made sure that prosecuting victims of slavery would be much less likely in future.