PDS Advocacy Team

I’m currently defending a 21-year-old male who was tricked and trafficked to the UK with a promise of a better life. He paid his traffickers £5,000 to be transported in the back of a lorry from Albania to the UK last July.

On arrival, he worked in construction as promised, but within months was transported to an address in the Cotswolds (best described as a ‘cannabis farm’).

Rooms in the house had been converted for the cultivation of cannabis. The electricity supply had been modified, an industrial ventilation system installed and industrial grade growing lamps were suspended from the ceiling.

During a search of the property, the police recovered 58 adult cannabis plants, just one month off maturity and ready for harvest. The potential yield was valued at £48,000.

Although my client had a key to the property, he was genuinely fearful and scared of his traffickers, who subjected him to veiled threats.

The police, as first responders, made a timely referral under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and a positive ‘Reasonable Grounds Decision’ (RGD) was received.

I have since secured my client conditional bail pending receipt of the ‘Conclusive Grounds Decision’ (CGD).

As I await the said decision, I note the recent Court of Appeal decision in R v Brecani [2020] EWCA Crim 731

Briefly, the Court was required to consider whether a ‘CGD’ was admissible in evidence in a criminal trial.

The Court ruled that case workers at the Single Competent Authority (part of the Home Office) are not experts and therefore their opinion evidence is not admissible at trial in criminal proceedings.

Be warned as the prosecution are now unlikely to accept such decisions at face value. Furthermore, the prosecution are more likely to challenge such ‘non-expert’ opinion evidence as it is likely to be deemed inadmissible.

For full transcript:

Brecani v R. [2021] EWCA Crim 731 (19 May 2021) (bailii.org)