Search Legislation

Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015

Section 22: Defence for slavery and trafficking victims compelled to commit an offence

Section 22 creates a statutory defence for victims of human trafficking and slavery-like offences who have been compelled to commit certain offences.  The defence under section 22 does not apply in respect of more serious offences.

Subsection (1) specifies that an adult is not guilty of an offence where they have been compelled to commit it and the compulsion is attributable to slavery or to relevant exploitation and where a reasonable person in the same situation (and having the person’s relevant characteristics) would have no realistic alternative but to commit the same offence.  Subsection (2) defines “relevant characteristics” for the purposes of subsection (1) as meaning age, sex and any physical or mental illness or disability.  Subsection (3) clarifies that a person may be compelled to do something either by another person or by circumstances.

Subsection (4) sets out the circumstances in which compulsion is attributable to slavery or relevant exploitation as being where the compulsion is, or is part of, conduct which constitutes an offence of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour or conduct which constitutes “relevant exploitation” (as defined in section 3 of the Act), or where the compulsion arises as a direct consequence of the person being, or having been, a victim of a slavery-like offence or of relevant exploitation.

Subsections (6) and (7) make separate provision for victims who are children with the effect that a victim who was a child at the time when the offence took place would be able to use the defence where the offence was committed as a direct consequence of being a victim of a slavery-like offence or of “relevant exploitation” (as defined by subsections (1) to (5) of section 3).  This would mean that a child would not need to show that a “reasonable person” in the same situation would have had no realistic alternative to doing the same criminal act. This is consistent with the special position of children within the criminal justice system, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Subsection (8) clarifies that references within this section to “an act” include “an omission”.  Subsection (9) sets out that the defence under section 22 (whether for adults or children) only applies to offences which attract a maximum sentence of less than five years, as well as to a small number of additional specified offences which are particularly linked with trafficking and exploitation.

Subsection (10) provides an Order-making power for the Department of Justice to amend subsection (9).

Back to top


Print Options


Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


More Resources

Access essential accompanying documents and information for this legislation item from this tab. Dependent on the legislation item being viewed this may include:

  • the original print PDF of the as enacted version that was used for the print copy
  • lists of changes made by and/or affecting this legislation item
  • confers power and blanket amendment details
  • all formats of all associated documents
  • correction slips
  • links to related legislation and further information resources