Investigations and prosecutions in relation to offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 are on the increase.
Definition of modern slavery
An offence is committed if:
- the person holds another person in slavery or servitude and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is held in slavery or servitude, or
- the person requires another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is being required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
A proactive approach to defending modern slavery allegations
At Olliers we have substantial experience in defending allegations relating to modern day slavery. We are frequently instructed during the investigation stage of a case. We appreciate that these matters are complex and frequently much of what is alleged is capable of contradiction.
In certain cases complaints have been made to the police by disgruntled employees. There may be a complaint from one employee who describes conditions of slavery which are exaggerated or untrue and it may be necessary to speak to other employees who are able to contradict what is alleged and who may be perfectly happy with their conditions of employment.
We may be able to show through social media, text activity or through witness statements that much of what is alleged is untrue.
Defence engagement with investigators
We will liaise with investigators through the process, drawing to their attention weaknesses in their case and in particular material which points away from our client’s involvement in any offence. We may obtain witness statements that support the defence.
We will remind the prosecution of their obligation to consider material provided by and representations made by the defence.
Evidence in modern slavery cases
No one case is the same and in considering whether a person has been held in conditions of slavery or servitude or required to form forced or compulsory labour all the circumstances will be considered. This may include the alleged victim’s circumstances, age, health, vulnerability, issues of consent, the nature of work undertaken.
There may be allegations of violence or threats of violence against a person or their family. Movement may have been restricted or passports or other documents retained. Wages may not have been paid. It is often alleged that threats were made to expose an individual to the authorities.
The prosecution will also look at other factors relating to employment. This often includes false promises about the nature of work, dangerous conditions, excessive hours, unexplained deductions from wages, substandard accommodation, payments to traffickers. There may be allegations of complainants being humiliated, threatened or insulted.
An alleged victim does not have to have been trafficked for the offence to be made out. This offence can be used in cases where the victim has been exploited in accordance with the ECHR definition but was not trafficked, or the trafficking element cannot be proved to the criminal standard.
Investigations into slavery and servitude offences can also cover pre existing offences such as false imprisonment, assault, blackmail. The difference is that with offences under the Modern Slavery Act prosecutors can look at all the behavior relating to servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Notwithstanding this, prosecutors should also consider charging specific offences in addition to the offence where appropriate (for example where the person has been physically assaulted while subjected to forced labour).
Sentencing modern slavery
A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable: on summary conviction, to imprisonment for term not exceeding 12 months or a fine or both; and on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.
Funding your case
During the investigation stage of a case no funding is available and we undertake these cases on a privately funded basis. If a prosecution is brought then in certain we can consider an application for legal aid.
If you would like to discuss how we can proactively assist you in relation to your case, contact Matthew Claughton by telephone on 0161 8277010, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or Laura Baumanis by telephone on 0161 8341515, by email to email@example.com or click here to send us a message.