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April 22, 2022

Unjust charges against survivor dropped just days before trial

A survivor of human trafficking was wrongly accused of being a criminal and put on trial for offences that he committed under duress.

 

Hui*, who is in his late teens, was arrested after being found in possession of a large amount of money that the police believed to be criminal property.

 

Hui was in fact a victim of child criminal exploitation (CCE). Traffickers were exploiting him and forcing him to commit crimes against his will. Following his arrest, the police took him to a youth offending institute. For more than one year, the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) treated him as a criminal.

 

Hui, an orphan from China, had actually been trafficked to the UK when he was a child.

 

One of Hope for Justice’s Independent Modern Slavery Advocates (IMSAs) who has worked closely with the survivor, said: “Hui was orphaned as a child and cared for by his grandmother, who also died. Hui ended up living on the streets at a very young age. A man offered to help Hui and gained his trust, but then abused this trust by trafficking him.”

 

Hui travelled to the UK via several countries, mainly by boat. When he arrived, he lived with a family who exploited him for forced labour, domestic servitude and criminal exploitation. He was made to work and clean for no pay.

 

Our IMSA said: “This horrendous situation came to a head when the police made an arrest. We were incredibly concerned that the survivor was going to be sent to prison for crimes he was forced to commit under duress. The CPS had refused to drop the charges for more than one year, and it was only after public law challenges were made against them that they paid attention.

 

“We were informed that the CPS were reviewing their four-stage test as to whether the case should be taken to prosecution.

 

“The CPS presented no evidence in court a few days later, and they dropped the charges on the grounds of modern slavery.

 

“We were absolutely relieved about this turnaround, but the survivor was left with trauma as a result of going through that process.”

 

 

Hui’s criminal solicitors made legal representations on his behalf in court. Hope for Justice connected the survivor with London-based law firm DPG who also made public law challenges.

 

Our team advised the criminal solicitors, who used the Section 45 defence of the Modern Slavery Act that it was not in the public interest to continue with a prosecution because Hui had committed the crimes under duress.

 

We supported him to report his trafficking case to the police. It is widely recognised that many survivors of modern slavery are fearful of police and authorities because they have real concerns about retributions from their traffickers or are mistrustful of authorities because of fears instilled upon them by those controlling them.

 

Hui bravely reported his case to the police but despite his willingness to engage, they did not investigate the crimes committed against him. Instead, they proceeded with an investigation into the crimes Hui had committed under duress. Hui’s public law solicitors therefore raised legal challenges under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act – the right to a fair trial.

 

Our IMSA said: “The criminal proceedings had a big impact on the survivor’s mental health and caused a lot of distress. This was on top of the exploitation that he had already faced at the hands of his oppressors. He was very distressed and very fearful about the court case. It was a lot of pressure on him and a lot to manage when he is such a young age. I was there when all of the charges were dropped. I asked him how he was feeling. He told us he was feeling ‘a lot happy’.”

 

Hui is receiving support from social services who previously referred him into the National Referral Mechanism – the UK government’s framework for identifying victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.

 

This resulted in a positive conclusive grounds decision, meaning that on the balance of probabilities, the UK authorities found that Hui was a victim of modern slavery.

 

He was referred to Hope for Justice via Barnardo’s, who provide specialist advocacy, advice and vital support to trafficked children. In most areas in the UK, this support currently ends when the individual turns 18. Hope for Justice has created a new role to bridge the gap.

 

Our team has assisted the survivor by connecting him with public law firm DPG for legal advice, supporting him to engage with his immigration solicitor, organising multi-agency meetings, writing letters to the CPS, attending medical assessments and supporting him at court.

 

The IMSA who is working alongside Hui said: “I want to commend the survivor for his bravery to engage with the police and for being open enough to talk about what had happened to him with his legal representatives and in his medical legal report. His evidence carried a lot of weight in securing the positive outcome. I know that was a difficult thing for him to do. The survivor’s account, combined with the expertise and team work that Hope for Justice were a part of, were vital in the charges being dropped.

 

“I’m incredibly proud of the survivor for the strength and tenacity he has shown and I’m pleased that he can now begin to put the proceedings behind him and move forward with his future.”

 

*Name and image changed to protect the identity of the survivor

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