Ben Douglas-Jones in Fresh Human Trafficking Appeal

Ben Douglas-Jones, led by Tim Owen QC, has appeared for the Crown in a further series of conjoined appeals regarding how victims of human trafficking who commit criminal offences should be treated by the courts - L, HVN, THN, T v. R [2013] EWCA Crim 991.

The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, made clear that victims of human trafficking are victims of crime, and must be treated as such, but emphasised that having been trafficked neither provides immunity from prosecution nor a substantive defence to any criminal charge. It is for prosecutorial discretion to provide 'a level of protection from prosecution or punishment for trafficked victims who have been compelled to commit criminal offences'.

The role of the court, exercised through its jurisdiction to stay proceedings that amount to an abuse of the court's process, 'protects the rights of a victim of trafficking by overseeing the decision of the prosecutor and refusing to countenance any prosecution which fails to acknowledge and address the victim’s subservient situation, and the international obligations to which the United Kingdom is a party'. It is in situations where a person was 'under levels of compulsion which mean that in reality culpability was extinguished' that an abuse of process submission is likely to succeed.

The Judicial Office has released a summary of the judgment here.