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Vietnamese trafficking victim’s conviction overturned after first CCRC referral under anti-slavery law

A judge has overturned a conviction where the charges were a direct consequence of being a child victim of modern slavery. 

It is the first time the CCRC have referred a case based on section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which serves as a defence for trafficking victims who were compelled to commit an offence.

‘Mr K’ was found working on a cannabis farm after being trafficked to the UK from Vietnam via Russia in 2016. In May 2017, the-then 17 year old pleaded guilty to the production of cannabis at a Youth Court and was sentenced to a 12 month referral order. 

The CCRC investigation considered new evidence that Mr K was a child victim of modern slavery and that his offending was a direct consequence of his trafficked situation. Mr K’s lawyers had originally advised him to plead guilty and did not tell him that he may have had a defence under section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act.

Following the CCRC’s referral back to the courts in May, a judge at Leicester Crown Court has now considered the case and directed a not guilty verdict.

Helen Pitcher OBE, Chairman of CCRC said:   

“This young man should not have been convicted of actions directly linked to being a victim of modern slavery.

“There is clear guidance on crimes committed by vulnerable trafficked children and victims of modern slavery, but this case shows that miscarriages of justice still happen.

“We urge any trafficking victims who feel they have received an unjust conviction to contact us and we will investigate their case.”

The CCRC investigation found that the CPS failed to follow its own guidance around victims of trafficking, despite clear evidence that was available from the time of his arrest through to his sentencing. 

The CCRC is the official independent body that has investigated thousands of potential miscarriages of justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Applications can be made by anyone who believes they have been wrongly convicted or sentenced, including those who have previously lost an appeal.

Notes to editors

  • While this was the first CCRC s45 Modern Slavery Act referral, human trafficking cases the organisation has investigated that pre-date the Act can be found here
  • The CCRC is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice. 
  • There are currently 11 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice. 
  • The CCRC usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts. 
  • The CCRC considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal.  Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”. 
  • If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair. 
  • More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at The CCRC can be found on Twitter @ccrcupdate and Instagram the_ccrc