On June 21, the UK Court of Appeal rendered a “milestone” judgement, in which it overturned the convictions against three children from Vietnam who were trafficked to the UK and forced to work for criminal gangs.

The children were arrested after police raids on cannabis factories, and convicted for drugs offences, while the criminals who trafficked them escaped justice.

The judgement will provide guidance to courts on how to protect victims of human trafficking who become forcibly involved in criminal activities – ranging from cannabis farming to sexual exploitation – for which they should not be prosecuted. The judgment reflects provisions in the recently adopted EU Anti-Trafficking Directive. The Judge stressed that the children are the victims of a “vile trade in people”, whether trafficked from home or overseas, they are all “victims of crime” with “no realistic alternative but to comply with the dominant force of another individual, or group of individuals.”

When assessing whether prosecution should be pursued, courts must take into account the victim’s age and whether the crimes were committed as a result of their exploitation.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 28 June 2013
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