By Dan Martin – BBC News
A man’s cannabis growing conviction has been overturned after it was found he was compelled to commit the crime as a modern slavery victim when he was 17.
The man was found working on a cannabis farm after being trafficked into the UK from Vietnam in 2016.
He admitted producing the drug before a youth court in May 2017 and was sentenced to a 12-month referral order.
However his conviction has now been quashed after a review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).
The CCRC is an independent body which assesses cases where miscarriages of justice may have occurred.
It reviewed evidence in case of the man – referred to as ‘Mr K’ in court – and argued his offence was a direct consequence of him being trafficked into the country.
At the time the case went to court he was advised to plead guilty by his lawyers.
They had not told him about section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which serves as a defence for trafficking victims who are compelled to commit an offence.
The CCRC referred the case back to be considered by a judge at Leicester Crown Court who, in a legal first, has now directed a not guilty verdict.
CCRC chairman Helen Pitcher said: “This young man should not have been convicted of actions directly linked to being a victim of modern slavery.
“There is clear guidance on crimes committed by vulnerable trafficked children and victims of modern slavery, but this case shows that miscarriages of justice still happen.
“We urge any trafficking victims who feel they have received an unjust conviction to contact us and we will investigate their case.”
The CCRC investigation found that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to follow its own guidance around victims of trafficking, despite clear evidence that was available from the time of his arrest through to his sentencing.
The CPS has been contacted for comment.