Successful Modern Slavery Act defence for an autistic youth

Our Mr Matthew Humphreys scored a notable victory in the Youth Court recently, successfully mounting a Modern Slavery Act defence for an autistic youth charged with being concerned in the supply of drugs.

Introduced in 2015, section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act provides a defence to certain offences where the defendant is found to be a victim of modern slavery and the relevant offence is found to have occurred as a result of this situation (typically involving the defendant having been placed under duress or otherwise exploited). 

Mounting such defences became considerably more complex last year following the High Court ruling in Brecini. 

Where a defendant had been assessed to be a victim of modern slavery by the National Referral Mechanism (the government agency tasked with investigating such claims), it had become common practice in the criminal courts to admit into evidence the findings of the NRM investigation under provisions designed to admit expert reports. 

The High Court deemed this improper, finding that NRM investigators do not have the status of forensic experts and that courts had been wrong to admit their reports in this way. 

This proved no impediment for Mr Humphreys, whose skilled and careful questioning of his vulnerable and reticent client elicited sufficient information to enable the court to make their own finding.