Industry News

Practice Note - Criminal prosecutions of victims of trafficking

04 November 2016


The Law society has issued a new practice note with which anyone involved in criminal cases should familiarise themself.  

As usual the status of the Practice Note is that is represents good practice, so while compliance with it is not mandatory, it would be far easier to account to the SRA for your actions (if necessary) if you have done so.

The Practice Note outlines the main statutory provisions set out in the Modern Slavery Act 2015, CPS guidance and provisions in relevant international conventions, which may apply to you if you encounter victims of trafficking.  Victims may well enter the criminal justice system due to having been compelled to commit an offence by their traffickers.  It also outlines the situations in which you have a duty to enquire and investigate further any claim that the individual is a victim of trafficking. 

The obligations under statute and international convention may appear incompatible with your regulatory obligations relating to confidentiality set out in Chapter 4 of the SRA Handbook.  In particular, Outcome 4.1 which requires you to keep the affairs of clients confidential, unless disclosure is required or permitted by law or the client consents, to which there are no specific exceptions. 

There may also be a conflict between your regulatory obligations of client confidentiality and the mandatory Principle of acting with integrity in situations such as where a minor discloses information to you about ongoing sexual or physical abuse, but refuses to allow you to disclose this to an appropriate authority.  

In weighing up your duties, the Practice Note states that you should consider the materiality of the information in question, including in particular, ‘whether the threat to the child's life or health, both mental and physical, is sufficiently serious to justify a breach of the duty of confidentiality’.





Ian Braithwaite
Client Relationship Manager

T: 0845 056 3949
M: 0743 727 4046

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