On 30 September 2020, Q (aged 16 at the time and of thoroughly good character) was arrested in a hotel room in Teddington, along with another youth and a 19-year-old male. A member of staff had called the Police after attending the room earlier that day, finding drugs in plain view and the occupants nowhere to be found. When the police arrived later, the occupants (including Q) had returned to the room; a significant quantity of drugs (approx. 27 grams of crack cocaine and 69 grams of cocaine) was also recovered directly below the window of the room in the car park.
Q and the two other occupants were charged with possession with intent to supply (Class A). All three pleaded guilty at the Crown Court and Q’s case was remitted to the Youth Court for sentence. Almost inexplicably, an NRM referral was not made until after Q had pleaded guilty – at the end of October 2020. A “Reasonable Grounds” decision was made by the Single Competent Authority (“SCA”) on 6 November 2020, and a “Conclusive Grounds” decision that Q was a victim of Modern Slavery was made on 11 May 2021. It was at this time that Ed Wylde was instructed by Thompson Solicitors.
On written and oral application by Ed, Q’s guilty pleas were vacated by the Youth Court. Thereafter, following written advice by Ed, a suitably qualified expert witness was instructed to provide a report as to whether Q was a victim of modern slavery – entirely independent of the Conclusive Grounds decision by the SCA, with the case of Brecani v R  EWCA Crim 731 squarely in the mind of the Defence.
A trial date was fixed for November 2021. The facts of the Crown’s case were essentially not in dispute; the sole issue being whether Q was a victim of modern slavery (see section 45 Modern Slavery Act 2015).
In a written application in advance of trial, the Crown applied to exclude the Expert Report – which had concluded that Q was indeed a victim of modern slavery. Amongst other matters of a similar vein, the Crown argued that the information contained within the Expert report was all information that an experienced Youth Bench or District Judge would be familiar with – and as such there would be no need for any evidence of such matters to be called.
The Defence, unsurprisingly, did not agree with the perhaps novel submission that the case should be judged on something other than “evidence”.
After receiving Ed’s detailed skeleton argument on the matter (making reference to Brecani v R  EWCA Crim 731, R v EK  EWCA Crim 2961, R v AAJ  EWCA Crim 1278, and R v D  EWCA Crim 2995) – coupled with an innovative hearsay application off the back of Valiati v DPP  EWHC 2908 (Admin) – the Crown wrote to Q’s solicitors four days before the trial to issue a notice of discontinuance.