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Learn More About Defences That Can Be Used For The Offence Of Modern Slavery

MODERN SLAVERY | Defence Solicitors

Whether you have committed a crime or not, being accused of a Modern Slavery offence is a crushing allegation. Modern Slavery offences are an incredibly intricate and complex area of English criminal law. 

Being equipped with some of the basics of offence, the average sentence, and potential defences that could be used in your case can help. Learning how the courts handled similar cases may also be helpful, as understanding how they handled them could give you an idea of what to expect in your own case.  

In this article we will walk you through the basic elements of a Modern Slavery offence, case examples of Modern Slavery offences in the UK, cases of Modern Slavery allegations defended by Stuart Miller Solicitors, the sentencing guidelines for Modern Slavery offences and how we can help you.  

An overview of the Modern Slavery offence 

Modern Slavery offences encompass multiple different crimes that are considered Modern Slavery. In English and Welsh law, Modern Slavery encompasses four main offences: 

  • Human trafficking,   
  • Slavery,   
  • Servitude,   
  • Forced or compulsory labour. 

It is defined by the National Crime Agency as “The recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of children, women or men through the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability, deception or other means for the purpose of exploitation.” 

In 2015, the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act split Modern Slavery and human trafficking offences into two separate offences:  

  1. Human Trafficking – Defined as arranging or facilitating another person’s trip for the purpose of exploiting them. This includes not only cross-border travel, but also travel within a country.  
  1. Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour – An offence committed by a person who holds another person in slavery or servitude. This person knows or ought to know that they are in slavery or servitude. 

The category of Modern Slavery includes crimes such as: 

  • Labour exploitation, 
  • Domestic servitude,  
  • Sexual exploitation of both adults and minors, 
  • Criminal exploitation, including “county lines” and gang-related criminality,  
  • Trafficking for “forced” or “sham” marriages. 

What makes most of these activities criminal and thus what makes these Modern Slavery offences, is the exploitation of an individual using coercion, force, abuse or deception.  

What kind of evidence is used in Modern Slavery cases? 

When you are charged with a Modern Slavery offence, the evidence that the police and Crown Prosecution will rely upon depends on the circumstances of the alleged offence. There is a more prominent emphasis on the use of evidence.  

If the offence includes the transport of someone from overseas, the prosecution will gather evidence of this. Witness testimonies of the complainant and anyone they may have talked to about the alleged acts taking place will likely be key evidence for both the prosecution and the defence.  

Digital devices, cell site analysis, and other forms of covert analysis that demonstrate the correspondence between other defendants accused of Modern Slavery are also important evidence that will be used by the prosecution to prove their case.     

What is the maximum sentence for a Modern Slavery offence? 

Modern slavery offences in England and Wales carry a maximum sentence of 18 years.   

Sentences for Modern Slavery can carry hefty sentences if you are found guilty and convicted. The sentence you receive will rely greatly on the evidence presented by the prosecution. As it is difficult to generalise as every case of Modern Slavery is different, it is important that you contact a Criminal Defence Solicitor.  

To find out more about the sentencing guidelines for a Modern Slavery offence read our guide.  

What are the applicable Modern Slavery defences? 

Your case may have several available defences, and it isn’t always clear which one will be applicable to your personal case. Bearing that in mind, there is a common defence used by those charged with Modern Slavery offences: 

Statutory Defence – Section 45 Modern Slavery Act 2015: 

A common defence used by defendants charged with Modern Slavery or associated offences like, possession of an identity document with improper intention and other conspiracy to traffic offences. 

When an adult or child commits a Modern Slavery offence, or any other offence, and they do so as a direct consequence of being the victim of Modern Slavery or trafficking they are eligible for the defence provided in section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 

Although you may not initially feel you are a victim of Modern Slavery or human trafficking, if you committed offences because you felt you had no choice due to being coerced or forced to act, you may have been a victim of Modern Slavery.  

It is noted by the Crown Prosecution Service, the police and the government that victims of Human Trafficking oftentimes commit Modern Slavery offences following their own victimisation to escape their entrapment.  

If the defendant can produce evidence of the following, they are eligible for the Section 45 defence: 

  1. You are or have been a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking. 
  2. You acted as a direct consequence of being or having been a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking.  
  3. A reasonable person in the same situation as you, including by holding the same characteristics such as age, sex and any physical or mental illness or disability, would have also done the act. 

If you wish to run a Section 45 defence, we can help you. To do so you will have to make a referral to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Our defence solicitors have great experience engaging with the NRM via the police or relevant local authorities and can walk you through the necessary steps in the process.  

NRM referrals are made to The Single Competent Authority (SCA), which determines whether the individual was a victim of Modern Slavery based on the facts of the case. 

When the NRM finds that the defendant is a victim of Modern Slavery, it is prescribed that it is best practice for the CPS to review whether the prosecution should proceed. Although the CPS are not compelled by mandatory legislation, it could be found that if a trial goes forward it could be found to be “an abuse of process” as the defendant is not fit to be tried and it would be unfair.   

General Defences: 

Occasionally, you may be able to rely on ‘general defences’ which refer to the accused individual rather than the alleged crime itself.  

These general defences include: 


Where you are not aware that the action you are committing is an offence.  


Where you were forced or coerced to act out this offence by another person.  


Where you were under the influence of a mental condition that impaired your ability, and you therefore did not intend to commit the offence.  


You were under the influence of drugs or alcohol to such an effect that you did not intend to commit the offence.   


You were misled or mistaken to the circumstances of the situation and would not have committed the offence if you had known otherwise.  

Self Defence: 

You committed the offence to protect yourself, your property, others, or other’s property.  

Not all these defences will be available to all defendants accused of Modern Slavery and it is best to consult with your specialist Modern Slavery defence solicitor to determine which will work best in your case.  

Modern Slavery Offences Case Examples 

Charges of Modern Slavery offences have been increasingly common since the advent of the Modern Slavery Act of 2015. We will now go through some cases of rightfully prosecuted cases of Modern Slavery ranging over the past ten years, extracted from research compiled by the Anti-Slavery Commissioner.  

In this case, a British Traveller (also referred to as Gypsy or Romani) and his wife exploited a victim through forced labour for ten years, between 2004 and 2014. The offences were brought to the attention of authorities when the victim contacted emergency services in 2014. The offender was charged with offences from 2010 when the relevant trafficking law was passed. The court sentenced him to four years for knowingly holding a person in servitude and knowingly requiring another person to work. 

In this case, a woman charged with Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking claimed that she herself had been trafficked into Cambridge by the same organised crime group she was charged in connection with. Once in the UK, she began to traffic other women into Bristol from Lithuania. As the offender admitted full guilt, her defence suggested that she had personally benefited very little from her crimes and that most of the money went to an organised crime group higher up. In this case, the offender received a three-year prison sentence. 

In this last case, a Pakistani woman was kept by her British Pakistani husband in domestic servitude for two years. Cooking, cleaning, and doing household chores for her husband and mother-in-law was her daily routine, often working 19-hour days for no pay, and receiving only £10 a month to top up her mobile phone. Through repeated physical violence, mental abuse and fear, her husband controlled her. The exploitation continued until the victim attempted suicide by taking an overdose of painkillers. Thereafter, she was taken to a safe house and there notified the police of her exploitation. An 18-month investigation culminated in the offender being sentenced to two years. 

Modern Slavery offences Defended by Stuart Miller Solicitors 

In this section of the article, we will walk you through the three latest cases of Modern Slavery accusations that our criminal defence solicitors represented clients in. Our specialist defence lawyers have the adept knowledge of the best case-management needed to tackle these kinds of accusations. None of these clients had to go to court for trial and their cases were dropped at the police station stage.  

In this first case, our client was identified as a suspect in a Modern-Day Slavery investigation. Police alleged that our client was forcing a fellow university student to store and sell drugs from his university accommodation. Our client entirely denied this accusation, maintaining that he had no knowledge of the named complainant in this case and denied selling cannabis. Our team of expert defence solicitors pursued the police during their further investigation for updates on the evidence they were holding against our client. Ultimately, after being Bailed to Return, then subsequently Released Under Investigation, our client received the ruling of No Further Action from the police. This means that the police decided not to pursue any further investigation against our client.  

In this second case, our client was suspected of a Modern Slavery offence as well as associated Modern-Day Slavery offences of human trafficking and child abduction. It was alleged by the police that our client had been named by an underaged vulnerable girl claiming that she had been sexually exploited by men who abducted her and facilitated her movement while she was missing from care. During a Missing Persons Enquiry concerning the girl, our client was contacted where he confirmed that he had been in contact with her via a number passed to him by a friend, but he had never met or had any contact with her in person.  

Our client wrote a prepared statement and gave a no comment interview when he was taken to Leyton police station. Our entire team of Modern Slavery specialist defence solicitors pursued our client’s case as he was bailed to return to the police station. Our team stayed in constant communication with the Officer in Charge of the investigation, determining what evidence they were gathering against our client. As a result, our client was released with No Further Action by the police.  

In a third case handled by our firm, our client was charged with Human Trafficking and Child Abduction, two of the charges considered Modern-Day Slavery offences.  

What happens if a Modern Slavery defence is successful? 

A successful defence may lead to you being acquitted of the charge of Modern Slavery or convicted of a lesser sentence. Defences to Modern Slavery are a complex and intricate area of law and it is essential that you secure the services of an experienced Modern Slavery lawyer.  

Where can I get help with Modern Slavery offences? 

Stuart Miller Solicitors is ready to assist you or a loved one facing accusations of Modern Slavery offences. When you are going through a difficult time in your life, finding the best criminal defence solicitors who will take the time to understand your individual case and advise you on the right course of action could make all the difference. To arrange a no-obligation consultation, please get in touch. 

(This page was last updated on November 22, 2023.)


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