In one of our recent articles, one of our specialist criminal lawyers discussed about a family of three Australians who faced court accused of forcing a woman from Afghanistan into “domestic servitude”

In a similar case, a grandmother of Indian descent has allegedly been kept as a prisoner in the home of a husband and wife. The couple have allegedly kept the grandmother as a slave for 8 years and were charged in 2015 for possessing a slave and exercising the right of ownership of a slave between July 2007 and July 2015. Whilst it is conceded by the prosecutor that no physical restraints were used to confine the Grandmother to the home, the level of control exerted by the couple has amounted to a charge involving the crime of slavery. The level of control reportedly caused serious inference with the grandmother’s rights and freedoms, including the right to seek medical treatment. Additionally, allegations have also been made that the grandmother was beaten with a frozen chicken and had hot water thrown on her body.


It is estimated that there are over 40 million people live in modern slavery conditions worldwide. In Australia, the relevant law which deals with crimes relating to slavery is enshrined in section 270.3(1) and section 270.6A(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). As a Federal offence, charges of slavery are dealt with by the Commonwealth Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. As an international signatory to article 8 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the offence of slavery can be enforced regardless of whether the act is conducted in another jurisdiction.

Additionally, section 270.3(1) and section 270.6A(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). Broadens the criminality required to secure a conviction. Therefore, it is intended to cover conduct which:

  • Occurs both across borders and within Australia – subject to constitutional limitations;
  • Is for a range of (unspecified) exploitative purposes
  • Includes men, women and children as victims, and
  • Takes place with or without the involvement of organized crime groups.

More specifically, section 270.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) defines the term ‘slavery’ as:

“the condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised, including where such a condition results from a debt or contract made by the person”.

It is therefore an offence under section 270.3(1) to:

  • Possess a slave, or exercise over a slave any of the other powers attaching to the right of ownership;
  • Engage in slave trading;
  • Enter into any commercial transaction involving a slave; or
  • Exercise control or direction over, or provide finance for, any act of slave trading or any commercial transaction involving a slave.


Although the issue of slavery is primarily dealt with by the Commonwealth government, NSW Government tabled its response to the report of the NSW Standing Committee on Social Issues on the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW). The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) was passed by NSW Parliament in June 2018. The Act recognises that modern slavery is prevalent around the world and in NSW, and sets out steps to ensure NSW is not contributing to these crimes. To that extent, the NSW government has responded to recommendations made by the NSW Parliament Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues by addressing the following:

  • Harmonising the reporting threshold of the NSW Act and the Cth Act (ideally at $50 million);
  • Retaining components of the NSW Act that complement, but are not inconsistent with, the Cth Act, including;
  • Establishing the NSW Anti-slavery Commissioner together with its public awareness and advisory functions;
  • Ensuring that goods and services procured by NSW government agencies are not the product of modern slavery;
  • Increasing support and assistance for victims of modern slavery;
  • Including a statutory review of the NSW Act, to be conducted in conjunction with the statutory review of the Cth Act; and
  • Amending the reporting threshold terminology in section 24 of the NSW Act from “turnover” to “consolidated revenue”.

To learn more about the crime of slavery and related offences, please click this link.

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