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Criminal prosecutions of victims of trafficking

2 November 2016

The number of adults and children illegally trafficked to, and within, the UK has risen significantly in recent years. You may encounter victims of trafficking who have entered the criminal justice system having been compelled to commit an offence by their traffickers.

This practice note outlines the main provisions of the relevant international conventions, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance and the Modern Slavery Act 2015. It also outlines your duty to enquire and, if necessary, investigate further any claim that an individual is a victim of trafficking.

Legal status

This practice note is the Law Society's view of good practice in this area. It is not legal advice.

Practice notes are issued by the Law Society for the use and benefit of its members. They represent the Law Society's view of good practice in a particular area. They are not intended to be the only standard of good practice that solicitors can follow. You are not required to follow them, but doing so will make it easier to account to oversight bodies for your actions.

Practice notes are not legal advice, nor do they necessarily provide a defence to complaints of misconduct or of inadequate professional service. While care has been taken to ensure that they are accurate, up to date and useful, the Law Society will not accept any legal liability in relation to them.

For queries or comments on this practice note, contact the Law Society's Practice Advice Service.

Professional conduct

The following sections of the SRA Handbook and in the SRA Code apply:

  • Principle 4: You must act in the best interests of each client
  • Principle 4 (a): you must observe your duty of confidentiality

Terminology

Must - A specific requirement in legislation or of a principle, rule, outcome or other mandatory provision in the SRA Handbook. You must comply, unless there are specific exemptions or defences provided for in relevant legislation or the SRA Handbook.
Should - Outside of a regulatory context, good practice for most situations in the Law Society's view. In the case of the SRA Handbook, an indicative behaviour or other non-mandatory provision (such as may be set out in notes or guidance).

These may not be the only means of complying with legislative or regulatory requirements and there may be situations where the suggested route is not the best possible route to meet the needs of your client. However, if you do not follow the suggested route, you should be able to justify to oversight bodies why the alternative approach you have taken is appropriate, either for your practice, or in the particular retainer.
May - A non-exhaustive list of options for meeting your obligations or running your practice. Which option you choose is determined by the profile of the individual practice, client or retainer. You may be required to justify why this was an appropriate option to oversight bodies.
SRA Code - SRA Code of Conduct 2011
SRA - Solicitors Regulation Authority
IB - Indicative behaviour

The Law Society also provides a full glossary of other terms used throughout this practice note.

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