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Modern Slavery: Offender or Victim?

Many of us have watched the BBC dramatization of the real life events of the Three Girls in the Rochdale sexual abuse ring. You may remember that one of the girls, despite being herself the victim of repeated sexual assaults, was, in many ways, treated as an offender.

She was unable to give evidence against her assailants and was even interviewed and questioned on her involvement in the paedophile ring.

This caused outrage from so many who watched this show.

Surely this girl was a victim?

She’d been drugged.

She’d been plied with alcohol from a young age.

She’d been beaten.

She’d been sexually assaulted.

She’d been raped.

She’d been groomed into thinking that one of the men cared about her.

And yes, then she’d brought friends into this twisted world where the treatment she received had somehow become acceptable in her mind.

But to the world watching, with the privilege of hindsight and the bigger picture – we saw her as the victim she was.


But how many of us would view a drug dealer in the same way?

But what if I said that that drug dealer had been forced to sell the drugs?

What would you consider to be an acceptable justification for this behaviour?

Organised crime gangs use the vulnerable to move and store drugs, using coercion, intimidation, violence and weapons.

The 2018 National Crime Agency figures suggest that at least 720 drug lines are in operation across England – all making use of these vulnerable individuals – to help move the drugs from London and across the country – and in most cases the drugs involved are Class A.

The gangs create a situation which places the offender under their control.

This may be via a debt that the offender then needs to work off – this can be bringing them into the country, or helping find them housing.

They may exploit juveniles not realising what they are doing.

They groom their victims, in a way not dissimilar to what we saw in the Three Girls series.


In a recent case the offenders (who were, of course, victims) were all young adults. They were vulnerable and were recruited with the promise of jobs, homes and security. They were then told to sell the drugs and they were not allowed back without having sold them all. They were beaten for failing or returning with insufficient funds.

Yes, these people are selling drugs – but are they not also victims as well as offenders?

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is helping recognise these situations and offers an alternative to prosecution, highlighting that where a person is subject to force, threats or deception designed to induce them into committing criminal acts then in some cases we should be considering them victims and not simply labelling them as offenders.


Forrest Williams are committed to helping those who should be recognised as victims to obtain the support and help they deserve and need. If you or anyone you know is charged with, or being investigated for an offence, and you believe they should be considered a victim, then call our dedicated team on 01623 397200.


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