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Anti-slavery groups hail court ruling on trafficking

human trafficking

Anti-slavery campaigners welcomed Appeal Court judges' guidance today which stated that human trafficking victims should be treated as victims of crimes and not criminals.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, sitting with Lord Justice Moses and Mrs Justice Thirlwall, allowed conviction appeals in four unconnected cases in which three children and one adult were "were trafficked by criminals for their own purposes" but were prosecuted and convicted themselves.

Announcing the decision, Lord Judge said: "Unfortunately the criminals who trafficked them have escaped justice."

The guidance handed down by the court relates to how the interests of those who are or may be victims of human trafficking, and who become involved in criminal activities, should be approached in criminal proceedings.

Lord Judge said: "This vile trade in people has different manifestations."

He said women and children are trafficked into prostitution, others into cannabis farming and others "are trafficked to commit a wide range of further offences."

Lord Judge said: "Whether trafficked from home or overseas, they are all victims of crime.

"That is how they must be treated and, in the vast majority of cases, they are - but not always."

Three of the cases involved Vietnamese children forced to work in cannabis factories. The fourth involved a woman in her thirties from Uganda who was trafficked for sexual exploitation and was prosecuted on the charge of using a false passport.

Anti-Slavery International and children's charity ECPAT UK welcomed what they said was "a clear message that no-one should be prosecuted of crimes committed as a consequence of being trafficked."

Anti-Slavery International trafficking programme co-ordinator Klara Skrivankova said: "We know there are hundreds of cases of men, women and children trafficked into the UK for forced criminality and many of them end up being prosecuted instead of the traffickers.

"This judgement is a milestone in making sure that victims of trafficking are protected against criminalisation. It's the traffickers who should be afraid of punishment for exploitation of others instead."

ECPAT UK head of advocacy, campaigns and policy Chloe Setter said: "The court has made it clear that these prosecutions should never have taken place and the four highly vulnerable victims should not have been treated as criminals and unfairly punished."