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Trafficking Victims Win Appeal Against Convictions

L, HVN, THN, T v R [2013] EWCA Crim 991

The Court of Appeal in England and Wales has quashed the convictions of three Vietnamese children who were trafficked into the UK and forced to work for criminal gangs. After raids on cannabis factories, the children were arrested and convicted of drug related offences. In its judgment the Court of Appeal said that the children were ‘victims of a vile trade in people’ and should not have been prosecuted. Guidance was issued by the Court of Appeal to other courts on how potential trafficking victims should be treated by the criminal justice system. The ruling suggests that in cases where issues of trafficking arise, the court can stop the prosecution if it is thought that the defendant is a trafficking victim and has been exploited into committing the offences. A representative from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said that the court’s decision will have ‘a significant effect’ on how the criminal justice system treats child victims, and ‘the court has made it clear the relevant authorities must properly investigate these cases before pressing charges, especially where children are involved’. In its decision, the court of Appeal recognised the importance of Article 8 of the EU Trafficking Directive which provides that victims of trafficking have a right not to be prosecuted for their involvement in criminal activity. A representative from Anti-Slavery International has called the judgment a ‘milestone in making sure that victims of trafficking are protected against criminalisation’.

Immigration & Asylum, Slavery & Human Trafficking