Victims of trafficking win appeals against convictions

21 June 2013

Anti-Slavery International and ECPAT UK are pleased that the Court of Criminal Appeal has today sent out a clear message that no one should be prosecuted for crimes committed as a consequence of being trafficked.

The Court has quashed four convictions of people trafficked into the UK for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. Three of them were Vietnamese children forced to work in cannabis factories. The fourth was a woman in her thirties from Uganda who was trafficked for sexual exploitation who was prosecuted on the charge of using a false passport.

Today’s judgement sends a clear signal that victims of trafficking are victims of crimes and should be treated as such. The courts will oversee the best interests of victims of trafficking and protect their rights.

The Court also stressed that where there is reason to believe a defendant is a child, they should be treated as a child – something that has been an historic issue of contention where children often do not have documentation to prove their age to the authorities.

The Court has recognised the importance of Article 8 of the EU Trafficking Directive (2011/36), which enshrines the right for victims of trafficking to not be prosecuted for their involvement in criminal activities they have been compelled to commit as a direct consequence of being trafficked. These are the first cases in the EU where the application of Article 8 of the EU Trafficking Directive has been considered.

The Court acknowledged that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will soon reconsider its guidance on prosecutions where the individual may be a victim of trafficking. The Court also recognised the duty for UK law enforcement agencies to investigate the traffickers in these cases.

The judgment echoes the recommendations of recent report by Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG), in which ATMG identified the systematic failure of UK’s Criminal Justice System to prosecute traffickers and protect victims’ rights. The lack of awareness of trafficking issues among the criminal justice practitioners was identified as one of the main reasons for this failure.

Klara Skrivankova, Anti-Slavery International’s Trafficking Programme Coordinator, said: “We know there are hundreds of cases of men, women and children trafficked into the UK for forced criminality and many of them end up being prosecuted instead of the traffickers.

“This judgment as a milestone in making sure that victims of trafficking are protected against criminalisation. It’s the traffickers who should be afraid of punishment for exploitation of others instead.

“The whole Criminal Justice System needs to take on board the message of the Court that victims of trafficking should not be punished for the crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers and hope this judgment makes a difference for all those who find themselves trafficked into this country now or in the future.”

Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Campaigns and Policy, at the children’s charity ECPAT UK, said: “The Court has made it clear that these prosecutions should never have taken place and the four highly vulnerable victims should not have been treated as criminals and unfairly punished.

“Child victims of trafficking are routinely let down and criminalised by the very systems in place to protect them. Today’s judgement reinforced the Government’s responsibility to identify, protect and safeguard trafficked children, such as those seen in these cases – children who have been ruthlessly exploited for the financial gain of others and need our support, not our condemnation.”

Note to editors

– For more media information or to arrange interviews, contact:
Anti-Slavery International Trafficking Programme Co-ordinator Klara Skrivankova on 07962 663647 or Jakub Sobik, Anti-Slavery International Press Officer at or on 07912 145610.
ECPAT UK Head of Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns, Chloe Setter, on 0207 2339887 or

– ECPAT UK is working with Anti-Slavery International and other partners on the RACE in Europe project – a two-year initiative to improve knowledge and responses to human trafficking for the purposes of forced criminal exploitation and forced begging in Europe. Through undertaking exploratory research and by training relevant practitioners on the scale and scope of this type of trafficking, the project aims to ensure that victims are treated as such rather than criminals, provided with appropriate support and that traffickers are prosecuted. The project, funded by the European Commission will run until October 2014.

– The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG) is a coalition of organisations established to promote a victim centred human-rights based approach to protect the well-being and best interests of trafficked persons. It was created to fulfil the role of a National Rapporteur set out in Article 29.4 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings 2005. The ATMG undertakes analytical and evaluative monitoring of the implementation of the Convention, with a view to strengthening the overall effectiveness of UK anti-trafficking policy. The latest ATMG report ‘In the Dock’ examined UK’s Criminal Justice System’s response to trafficking.

– Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA, with direct effect from the 6th April 2013.