Court of Appeal Quashes Convictions in ADG & Anor v R Due to Error in Statutory Defence Instruction

Citation: [2023] EWCA Crim 1309
Judgment on


The case of ADG & Anor v R revolved around the application of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, specifically section 45, which provides a defence to victims of slavery or human trafficking who commit an offence. The primary legal question was whether the trial judge’s directions pertaining to the statutory defence available to persons under the age of 18 were legally accurate. This case analysis examines the court’s reasoning and the application of relevant legal principles, which led to the quashing of the appellants’ convictions for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Key Facts

ADG and BIJ, both 17 years old at the time of the appeal, were convicted for two counts of conspiracy to supply class A drugs after a police investigation unearthed a drug supply network operating between Liverpool and Devon. They were sentenced to a Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO) for three years. Both appellants had been involved during their early teenage years and had pleaded guilty to other separate offences, already subjecting them to concurrent YROs.

At trial, it was asserted by ADG and BIJ that they acted under compulsion due to being victims of modern slavery. This case statement hinged on section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which allows for a defence against charges if the crimes were committed as a direct consequence of the individual being, or having been, a victim of slavery or exploitation.

The central issue focused on the proper interpretation of section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Specifically, there was a distinction between subsections (1), (2), and (3), which apply to individuals aged 18 or over and subsection (4), which applies to individuals under the age of 18. For adults, the defence requires compelling evidence of being forced to commit the offence, whereas for minors, the defence simply requires that the offence was committed as a direct consequence of being a victim of slavery or exploitation, without the need to prove the aspect of compulsion.

During trial, the judge erroneously instructed the jury that the appellants needed to prove compulsion despite being under the age of 18 during the period in which the offences took place. This misdirection incorporated an unnecessary and additional burden of proof onto the appellants’ defence, conflating the requirements set forth for adult defendants with those intended for minors under the Act.

The appeal further contended that the trial judge failed to properly direct the jury on ‘relevant exploitation’ extending beyond the concept of modern slavery, omitting considerations pertaining to human trafficking which might have influenced the outcome.


The Court of Appeal agreed with the appellants that the trial judge’s directions were incorrect, as they improperly added a compulsion requirement to the defence for minors under section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. This incorrect direction had the potential to mislead the jury and represented a more onerous standard than prescribed by law. As a result, the convictions of ADG and BIJ were deemed unsafe and thus were quashed. The court chose not to order a retrial given the appellants’ ages, their existing YROs from prior convictions, and potential ongoing legal matters that may address any continuing offences.


In ADG & Anor v R, the Court of Appeal underscored the critical need for precision in jury directions, especially relating to statutory defences such as section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The judgement illustrates the importance of the correct application of legal principles to the facts, ensuring that the statutory protections intended for certain classes of individuals, such as minors, are properly enforced. The case reaffirms that the statutory defence for individuals under 18 does not require proof of compulsion for the offence to be considered a direct consequence of being a victim of slavery or exploitation. This decision has significant implications for the correct assertion of the defence in future cases and serves as a cautionary reminder for legal professionals to thoroughly scrutinize statutory language during trial proceedings.