The Children’s Rights Organisation, Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT UK) has published an updated report which highlights the importance of age assessments for victims of trafficking.
Page 11 of the report highlights that age assessments are critical in ensuring that victims of child trafficking receive the support and protection that they need. The report also serves as a reminder that child victims of trafficking can be coached by their traffickers into giving false accounts that they are adults when they come in to contact with public authorities. On the other hand, they may be too traumatised to properly engage in the age assessment process which can result in their age being disputed.
The report highlights that age assessments and age disputes can have a huge impact on whether a child victim off trafficking feels believed and their ability to develop trust with professionals. Building a relationship of trust is of fundamental importance when working with a victim of child criminal exploitation (CCE).
A flawed age assessment, can result in a victim of CCE not having the support of an appropriate adult at the police station, being remanded into custody when charged, the incorrect test under s.45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 being applied and even result in a child being sentenced as an adult.
If there are any concerns that a victim of trafficking may have been incorrectly assessed as an adult, a defence expert should always be instructed to conduct an independent age assessment.
Written by Sabrina Neves, Solicitor at GT Stewart Solicitors