Tuesday, 23rd March 2021

Maria Demosthenous, a senior child care solicitor with Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, has been awarded ECPAT UK’s Children’s Champion Award for 2020. The award is made in recognition of Maria’s outstanding commitment to child victims of trafficking in her local authority over the last 13 years. 

Photo of Maria DemosthenousFollowing open public nominations, a panel of experts including young people with lived experience of trafficking scored the shortlisted nominees against our three core criteria of child-centredness, kindness and advocacy.

Maria has gone above and beyond expectations to advocate for children over the past 13 years. In particular, she has consistently challenged the criminalisation of child victims of trafficking, ensuring they are seen as victims not offenders. Maria has sought to raise awareness around the Modern Slavery Act section 45 statutory defence to ensure that trafficked children and young people in Solihull are not convicted for offences committed as a result of their exploitation - promoting the international principle of non-prosecution of trafficked children. Building on this, she has approached the judiciary to deliver awareness training in relation to the NRM and issues around modern slavery.

Additionally, Maria consistently challenges decisions which are unlawful and inconsistent with national guidance, including decisions by the police not to consider child victims of trafficking as missing, and decisions in age disputes. She is also a strong advocate for ensuring that the least restrictive and least intrusive options are considered in care and safety planning. She recognises that children and young people are active agents and experts in their own lives, and always ensures that they are able to have a voice and actively participate through the court process, by having access to good legal representation and a guardian.

In addition to our Children’s Champion for 2020, this year we are recognising the achievements of three runners up with our ‘highly commended’ award. Our three runners up are:

  • Kate Aubrey-Johnson, a youth justice specialist barrister at Garden Court Chambers with experience as a criminal defence practitioner, public lawyer and SEND mediator
  • Lynne Chitty, Care Director at charity Love146 UK
  • Rebecca Hayden, an Independent Child Trafficking Guardian at Barnardo’s, Wales

Patricia Durr, CEO of ECPAT UK, said

“We’re delighted to award Maria our Children’s Champion Award for 2020 in recognition of her consistent daily work ensuring trafficked children are supported and access their rights. It’s the tireless, behind the scenes work of professionals like Maria that ensures life-changing outcomes for trafficked children. Good legal representation can be the difference between children moving on and having stable futures or remaining vulnerable to exploitation and harm.

“It was a really tough decision for our panel, which included young people from our youth programme for those affected by trafficking. That’s why this year, we have introduced our new ‘highly commended’ awards for our incredible runners up who have each demonstrated incredible commitment to trafficked children.

“Congratulations to Maria and our three runners up for their truly well-deserved awards.”

About the ECPAT UK Children's Champion Award 

The ECPAT UK Children’s Champion Award is an annual award presented to one individual or organisation that has shown outstanding commitment to children. Past winners include:

  • Garden Court Chambers, for their substantial work advocating for the rights of trafficked children and developing the law to protect child victims for over a decade. 
  • The Scottish Guardianship Service, for its child-centred model of practice with unaccompanied and separated and trafficked children in Scotland.
  • Lord McColl of Dulwich CBE, for his dedicated fight for a system of independent guardianship for trafficked children over many years.
  • Kalvir Kaur, a leading children’s solicitor and former Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year, who has specialised in cases of trafficked children.
  • Nadine Finch, barrister and leading children’s rights advocate, who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to children’s rights.
  • The Row for Freedom team of five young women, who gained two world records by rowing unaided across the Atlantic Ocean to raise awareness of child trafficking


Press contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, [email protected], 0207 607 2136