Modern Slavery – A Defence to Drug Dealing and other offences?

February 25, 2019

In some cases the Modern Slavery Act 2015 provides a defence to specific criminal charges where it is shown that they were committed under a compulsion due to slavery or exploitation (for over-18s) or as a direct consequence of slavery or exploitation (for under-18s), the test for children being less difficult to establish.

What else is modern slavery a defence to?

It can’t be used for serious crimes like murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, piracy, serious violence, firearms offences, robbery, burglary, arson, criminal damage, most sexual offences, or modern slavery offences themselves.

However, it can be used as a defence to many other crimes. It is used for victims of ‘County Lines’ drugs offences but also applies to most immigration offences, minor assaults, theft, or conspiracy to do any of these things. Anyone who is trafficked or exploited can potentially benefit from this as a defence.

Children may be exploited for a variety of reasons by gangs and used to carry and supply drugs. Children who are particularly vulnerable are often targeted, and they may feel that they can’t tell anyone in case they are arrested for the crimes they have already committed and be punished.

What needs to be proved?

The defence requires several things, depending on a person’s age. Regardless of age, they need to be a victim of slavery or exploitation.

Those over 18 rely on s.45(1) of the Modern Slavery Act, where they are not guilty if they commit the crime because they are made to do it for some reason connected to slavery or  exploitation. Or where a reasonable person with the same characteristics would have no other realistic alternative in that situation.

Whereas a person under 18 relies on s.45(4), would not be guilty if the crime is committed as a result of that person being a victim of slavery or exploitation. Or if a reasonable person with the same characteristics would have done the same

Clearly the defence for under-18s is less difficult to establish, reflecting the increased vulnerability of children.

A person has to raise enough evidence for it to be possible that they are a victim of slavery of exploitation within the meaning of the Act.

It is left to the prosecution to disprove this evidence beyond reasonable doubt and if they cannot, a person then has to show it’s possible that the offence was carried out either under a compulsion relevant to (over-18) or as a direct consequence of (under-18), that slavery or exploitation.

If the prosecution cannot disprove either of these things, then the defence succeeds.

How Tuckers Solicitors can help you…

To discuss anything to do with modern slavery as a defence please contact us on 020 7388 8333 or email and we will gladly assist.  

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deliver immediate and expert legal advice and representation.