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Ethics – Human trafficking

January 2017

A teenage victim of human trafficking has had her conviction overturned by the Home Office.

The child, who cannot be named, had been tricked by a family friend into accompanying him to England, where she was exploited and forced to have sex with men who beat her. After fleeing this dangerous situation, she bumped into another man who offered her a place to stay in Teesside, where criminals were growing cannabis, when police raided the house and found her. 

The victim was given a custodial sentence and, only after serving that time, was she able to convince the CPS of her actual age — she was just 16 at the time of sentencing, not 19 as the authorities stated.

The CPS subsequently supported her appeal to have her conviction overturned. Nola Leach, chief executive of charity CARE, commented: ‘While we welcome the CPS’s decision to overturn the wrongful conviction, there are clear lessons that can be learnt from this case. Police and prosecutors need to be aware of the potential that young people found cultivating cannabis could be victims of human trafficking. Many children are trafficked exactly for this purpose.

‘It’s vital that police and prosecutors are trained up to identify potential victims of human trafficking and consider not prosecuting them for crimes they have committed under the influence of their exploiter’.