Is The System Failing Vietnamese Victims of Trafficking?

Greetings from The Slave Detective,

Circumstances have dictated that I write about this subject today.

With the growing numbers of young Vietnamese persons coming to notice in the justice system for offences, especially Cultivation of Cannabis, it is time to discuss this subject.

This week I had a telephone call from an eminent barrister, whom I wasn’t going to name, wanting to discuss this very topic. The only reason I wasn’t going to name her was that I know some of the judiciary feel she is on a personal crusade on this subject.

Today there is an article in the Law Society Gazette where she has pointed out that victims of human trafficking should be removed from the criminal justice system.

Parosha Chandran, whom I have blogged about before, works tirelessly in this field. She is often refered cases where young Vietnamese persons are arrested in premises used to grow Cannabis.

She recently secured a landmark ruling in the case of ‘trafficked minor T’, which was referred to appeal in 2011. T’s conviction was quashed. ‘T’ was arrested in one such ‘Cannabis Lab’.

She is currently working on several other similar fact cases.

One is where a person was recognised by The Social Services as a minor, had been placed in a cannabis factory by a family he had worked as a domestic slave for and then locked into the premises having nothing to do with the Cannabis Plants. He was there for five days when the Police arrested him for Cultivation of Cannabis and he received two years imprisonment.

It appears the main crunch matter in the case was if he watered the plants, which he denied having anything to do with.

This point of fact appears to be of little value to me. The important fact as I see it is, who placed him there?, locked him in the premises and allowed this young person to ‘carry the can’?

He had already been identified by the National referral Mechanism (NRM), which examines if a person is a trafficked person, as someone who met their criteria and was therefore trafficked.

I’m sure the case is far more complicated than I have set out, but the fact remains these cases need closer examination by investigating agencies.

Forgive me, I’m not saying this person should just walk free. Each case needs to be examined very closely, but what I am saying is should we not be asking the question’ who is responsible for these young people being in situation?’

Isn’t that an investigation process that should take a priority and maybe uncover the Organised Criminal Network undoubtably hiding in the shadows?

Are we just taking the easy option? :- and I’m not only talking about investigators but prosecutors and defending counsel.

At the end of the article there is an interesting comment by someone who very defensively says:-

“Try asking CPS to review a case on either public interest or evidential grounds. They will tell you they are aware of their duties and do not need to be reminded of them.
Don’t blame the defence for this.”

Someone who is clearly not reading the article that says “victims of human trafficking are being failed by defence teams, the Crown Prosecution Service and the police.” They need to wake up and be more proactive.

Defence counsel have a moral obligation to pursue the best possible defence for their client as instructed. I am absolutely sure there are cases where they feel they have a cut and dried case and advise their clients to plead guilty. Maybe this is because they are becoming so frequent, without scratching away at the surface and recognising Human Trafficking elements to their cases.

Judges are equally to blame. In the case I spoke about with Parosha the Judge made a ruling that he believed the person to be an adult. Despite the fact that the Social Services, who are best placed to assess who is a child, stated they believed he was a child. Can a child consent to be Trafficked? NO!

In another recent case I blogged about ‘Kim’ who was going through the Court process supported by The POPPY PROJECT.  The question was asked “What happens if you’re not the right kind of victim?”

It is much easier to identify and support a person trafficked for sexual exploitation. People have a heightened awareness of this topic.

It is true to also say that we can not have the legal system hog tied in their examination of cases, decreeing that all such ‘Cannabis Factory’ cases are just stopped and not proceeded with.

This may also make the Trafficker stronger when they use such vulnerable persons telling them that our system will not pursue them so ‘just do as your told.’

This type of case was well covered in the film ‘Stolen’ with Damian LEWIS. A young person was locked in a Cannabis Hydroponic Lab and discovered by Police during a raid. The main character, Detective Inspector Carter (LEWIS) realised that the ‘Vietnamese Boy’ was a victim rather that a criminal. Take a look at the film if you want to know the outcome but I agree with them.

So it is the duty of all of us to examine these types of cases.

The Police to make sure the investigate the case as professionally as possible.

The Prosecutors to ensure they have examined the case properly.

The Defence to ensure they are defending their clients as robustly as they can.

The Court to recognise the more serious element of such cases.

The Public to be aware that as a Juror you maybe called upon to examine such a case and as a member of society our resources are best targeted to pursue the real criminal element in these cases.

This is not just a UK problem. This is happening globally so let us tackle in on a global basis.

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