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Vulnerable man

Chloe Birch successfully challenges drug supply prosecution of defendant with brain injury.


Chloe’s client had suffered an epidural brain haemorrhage in 2018 following a head injury in an assault. The brain injury had significant effect on their executive functioning, short term memory loss and ability to communicate. As a drug user prior to the brain injury, Chloe’s client became vulnerable to exploitation and cuckooing by those involved in drug supply.

As well as fitness to plead being in issue, it became apparent that the defendant would be unable to participate in any process of providing evidence to the relevant professional bodies about modern slavery, or presenting a defence about his exploitation/cuckooing, due to the cognitive impact of his brain injury.

Following a report from a neuro-psychologist, and with supporting evidence from Headway, the brain injury association, who provided support to the defendant throughout proceedings, Chloe was able to persuade the Crown not to proceed with prosecution of this very vulnerable individual, arguing that not only was it not in the public interest, but that it would be highly prejudicial and unfair if he was unable to present a defence of exploitation by virtue of his inability to fully participate at trial.  Both offences of possession with intent to supply class A drugs were not proceeded with.  

Chloe was instructed by Keith Sheppard at Thompson Solicitors.

Brain injury and the criminal justice system

Headway’s Justice Project aims to raise awareness and improve understanding of brain injury in the criminal justice systems around the UK.

Related Content

Making Headway: improving the criminal justice system for those with brain injuries – Mountford Chambers (

BLOG: A Focus of the Minds: a review of the new Overarching Guideline for Sentencing Offenders with Mental Health Conditions – Mountford Chambers (


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