Two survivors of modern slavery have had their criminal convictions overturned after a successful appeal proved their innocence.
The couple – a Polish man and woman in their late 40s – have been formally identified as victims of modern slavery who were trafficked to the UK for forced labour on a farm.
Before leaving Poland, Antoni* and Dorota* were told they would earn £250 per week working in a factory. But when they arrived in England, the traffickers controlled their wages, handing them just £20 a week of what they earned.
Antoni and Dorota were forced to work in Nottinghamshire and Wales in the UK, their exploitation ongoing for three years.
One of Hope for Justice’s Independent Modern Slavery Advocates (IMSAs) said: “During this time, the couple were compelled to steal, resulting in theft convictions in their names, some of which resulted in custodial sentences.
“On escaping from their traffickers, the couple were signposted to Hope for Justice, and we have been advocating on their behalf for more than two years.”
We referred Antoni and Dorota to a specialist criminal lawyer for advice and representation on reopening and overturning the court judgements.
Following a lengthy and complex appeal process, the couple’s names have been cleared and they no longer have a criminal record.
When we asked Antoni and Dorota what this result meant to them, they told our team: “We were forced to steal by the people who trafficked us. We were threatened and we felt like we had no choice.
“We are very happy that the convictions have been overturned. This was a huge burden. We had been thinking a lot about these convictions and once we found out they had been overturned, it was like a weight off our minds.”
Our IMSAs have worked alongside Antoni and Dorota, advocating for them to live in a safe environment. They are now living in temporary, stable accommodation, and we are advocating for them to be moved to permanent housing.
We have also helped them to secure benefits they are entitled to due to their poor health and inability to work.
In relation to their court appeal, our IMSA has facilitated communication between the solicitor and couple, and supported them at various appointments.
We also provided a detailed witness statement outlining the history of their exploitation and the support they have received from Hope for Justice.
The solicitor submitted applications to reopen their cases and during the appeal hearing, the court agreed to reopen and overturn the convictions.
Antoni and Dorota told us: “The fact that Hope for Justice helped us with this means a lot. We wouldn’t have known who to turn to for help otherwise. We wouldn’t even have known that there was a possibility of the convictions being quashed. We are very grateful for Hope for Justice’s support.”
*Names and photo changed to protect identity of survivors