Ben Douglas-Jones KC, leading James Rowbottom of Matrix, instructed by Philippa Southwell of Southwell and Partners, acted for the Appellant in Henkoma  EWCA Crim 808. H had been a child when convicted of a firearms offence because of his exploitation by gangs as a victim of human trafficking. Three years later, as an adult, he was convicted of a second firearms offence, when still under the control of gang members.
It was argued that, in spite of the seriousness of the offences, failings by different branches of the state, including the local authority, during H’s childhood amounted to breaches of international law duties to identify, protect and recover victims of trafficking. There were therefore breaches of Art. 4 of the European Convention on Action against Trafficking and Art.4, ECHR.
Lady Justice Carr, the Lord Chief Justice-designate, acknowledged the exploitation and failures in the process that should have protected him. It was acknowledged that there had been Art.4 failures. Nevertheless, the seriousness of his offending was such that to prosecute him was not an abuse of process.
The judgment is significant as, for the first time, the Court emphasised that deference is due to the Crown’s position on the public interest in a prosecution, even where the consideration of the public interest in light of the full factual picture only occurs retrospectively at the appellate stage. The prosecution stance would need to be “clearly flawed” before a conviction will be unsafe. Following the leading cases of AAD  1 WLR 4042 and AFU  1 Cr. App. R. 16, this case and AVI  EWCA Crim 803 provide the bookends to the principles to be applied when considering whether a conviction will be unsafe when elements of exploitation are overlooked in the Crown Court.
Ben Douglas-Jones KC appeared in all four cases (AAD, AFU, AJW and Henkoma).
Written by Andrew Rourke