Organised crime groups (commonly based in large cities but not exclusively so) are known to exploit vulnerable individuals to transport and sell drugs across the country on their behalf. The individuals exploited are often in their teenage years but can also be adults.
The crime group members would target a remote area of the country and set up a system whereby the exploited person would courier the drugs to the chosen area and then sell the drugs on request.
It is normally these exploited individuals who are arrested by the police and find themselves in the criminal justice system. The person who instructed them to carry out this criminal activity would then look for their next vulnerable individual to carry on their operation. This is the sort of scenario in which a Modern Slavery Act defence might apply.
Section 45 Modern Slavery Act 2015 provides individuals with a defence if they satisfy the following requirements:
(a) the person is aged 18 or over when the person does the act which constitutes the offence
(b) the person does that act because the person is compelled to do it
(c) the compulsion is attributable to slavery or to relevant exploitation, and
(d) a reasonable person in the same situation as the person and having the person’s relevant characteristics would have no realistic alternative to doing that act
(a) the person is under the age of 18 when the person does the act which constitutes the offence
(b) the person does that act as a direct consequence of the person being, or having been, a victim of slavery or a victim of relevant exploitation, and
(c) a reasonable person in the same situation as the person and having the person’s relevant characteristics would do that act
This area of law is both complex and sensitive. The defence is not just available in relation to drug supply allegations however there are many offences which are specifically excluded for example many violent and sexual offences.
It is important to note that the vulnerable individual must provide evidence in order to raise the defence. Thereafter it will be for the prosecution to prove, to the criminal standard, that the individual was not compelled to act due to slavery or exploitation within the meaning of s45 of the act.
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