Modern Slavery defence
Our client was acquitted of dangerous driving following successful reliance on the Modern Slavery Act defence
The police attempted to stop a car driven by our client. They pulled alongside the car at traffic lights and told our client to pull over. Our client drove through a red light and lost control of his vehicle, causing it to hit a walled garden. He and the passenger ran in opposite directions and he was caught. At the police station our client was advised to give a no comment interview.
During our initial conference our client mentioned that had been forced to drive by a group of men. It transpired that he had one previous conviction for possession of class A drugs with intent to supply and for possession of a bladed article for which he had been sentenced and served 7 months of an 18 month Detention and Training Order. Whilst serving that sentence the charity Barnados met with him and he explained that he had only done what he had done as he had been coerced, beaten and threatened by a group of men. This raised modern slavery issues. Given that his former solicitor had never raised the possibility of a s.45 Modern Slavery Act defence, Barnados (with his local YOT), referred his case to the National Crime Agency under the National Referral Mechanism. They concluded that our client had been a victim of modern slavery in the former case. That was relevant because our client had been forced to act as he did by the same people again when he drove dangerously.
Given that our client had raised a coercion/exploitation factor in his case, we had to contact a “first responder” to make an NRM referral. Eventually his local YOT agreed it was a case that needed to be investigated by the NCA. The NCA, after many months, concluded our client was not a victim of human trafficking/modern slavery. The NCA’s initial decision was challenged and eventually the NCA reversed its initial decision. This enabled our client to present the Modern Slavery Act defence at his trial.
We had already written to the CPS whilst this was ongoing to ask them to review their decision to prosecute the Defendant but they continued to pursue it.
We were able to show that the officer in the case had made a number of serious failings including failure to conduct CCTV enquiries and failing to follow up information we provided that would assist our client. We obtained body worn footage of our client’s arrest that the CPS previously refused to serve. This footage was crucial because our client had said he had tried to explain what happened to the officers but none of them had made any note of that in their statement. We transcribed the footage and our client was shown, over the course of a 50 minute period, to repeatedly refer to the other men and raise the issue that he had been coerced into driving against his will.
After a 5 day trial the jury returned a not guilty verdict.
Our client was represented by Aysha Moore as his solicitor and trial Counsel was Lisa Wilson.