Pump Court Chambers

Modern Slavery

Blog 17th June 2021

A young man [YM] from London smokes shared cannabis socially with his ‘new friend’[NF]. After a little time, discovering that the YM has a job, NF asks for payment for the cannabis, a sum just beyond YM’s financial reach, NF demands carrying and supplying in lieu of the debt.

Unusually early one morning YM is told by NF to make a supply to a customer when he will be carrying quite a large amount of cash; he is set on by four armed men and robbed. The debt increases.

Sent to a country town away from London YM sells cocaine to an undercover police office 3 separate times; he is caught on a bodycam, the phone records match, and the notes found on him match notes issued to the police officer.

A slam dunk for the prosecution perhaps; well not quite. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 section 45 provides that a person is not guilty of an offence if it is established that a defendant was the victim of slavery or relevant exploitation, and a reasonable person in the same situation having the defendant’s relevant characteristics would have done that act. Of course, it is for the prosecution to disprove the defence once raised. [1]

Applying the associated guidance, the CPS consider a four stage test in deciding to prosecute. Test 3 states; Is there clear evidence (not ‘independent’ evidence) of a statutory defence under section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015? If yes then the case should not be charged or should be discontinued on evidential grounds.

Naturally, due to the secretive world of drug supply, such evidence will usually come from the defendant alone.

Further provisions provide for the untested account to be referred by suitable authority to the National Referral Mechanism of the Home Office, who make a finding whether there is a victim of modern slavery.

In YM’s case, indictment for class A supply discontinued.

Of course Judges and prosecutors are alive to abuse of this ‘escape route’ but a well drafted letter to the prosecution early in the proceedings may influence the outcome.

This article ‘Modern Slavery’ was written by Charles Parry. To enquire about instructing Charles or any other member of our Criminal Team, please contact our clerking team via our switchboard on 01962 868 161 or email: clerks@pumpcourtchambers.com


[1] Kevin Brecani v Regina [2021] EWCA Crim 731, 2012 WL 01989957

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