Acquittals in “unique” modern slavery trial

17 November 2022

Since 2018, Stephen Donnelly (leading Rebecca Penfold) has acted as counsel to the second defendant in a multi-count indictment alleging conspiracy to hold another in servitude, perform forced or compulsory labour, international human trafficking, domestic human trafficking and ABH.

The case involved a group from a Traveller family (six defendants) and was first tried in November 2018. A re-trial was held in September 2019. The second re-trial commenced in March of this year, prosecuted by King’s Counsel, and concluded in October with the seventh jury that had been empanelled being discharged.

The case involved significant complexities including the indictment spanning the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, arguments as to severance and no case to answer, the use of intermediaries for both complainant and defendants, contested expert evidence as to learning difficulties and cell-site material, psychiatric ill-health, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent CBA action.

In concluding remarks to the jury discharged in October 2022, HHJ stated:

“This case stands out as unique for me- as it does for the barristers- in the perpetual stream of difficulties we have had to field. The case has thrown up an extraordinary number of questions of law which the barristers have had to consider and argue in front of me..”

Upon setting the case down for a third re-trial to commence 2024, today the Crown offered no evidence against all defendants.

Stephen and Rebecca were instructed by Giles Hayes of EHB Legal.

17 November 2022


Stephen Donnelly

Stephen Donnelly

Call 2001

Rebecca Penfold

Rebecca Penfold

Associate Member

Call 2012

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