Legislative approaches to recognising the vulnerability of young people and preventing their criminalisation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Law
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Jul 2021
Publication type

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 introduced a defence for child victims of modern slavery who commit offences consequent on slavery and/or exploitation. Statutory recognition of the vulnerability of young people who have engaged in offending behaviour as a consequence of their experience of being trafficked provides a new and compelling argument for those vulnerabilities to be recognised in relation to all children who offend, and not just to those who have been victims of trafficking and slavery. However, the relationship between youth and vulnerability becomes obscured when young people, who are not deemed to be victims of slavery or trafficking, engage in offending behaviour. In this context young people are ​regularly cast as autonomous deviants who should accept the consequences of their actions and choices. In this article we argue that a more general defence, based on section 45 but not limited to victims of trafficking and slavery, together with an increase in the minimum MACR, would help to ​acknowledge the limitations of the criminal justice system as a means of preventing and dealing with youth crime and antisocial behaviour​. We also consider whether the child’s needs would best be met by non-criminal methods of social intervention.