Right to compensation for trafficked victims in the UK

Date: 30th July 2014
Category: Special protection measures

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that trafficked people in the UK now have the right to recover damages from their traffickers irrespective of their immigration status, after intervention from Anti-Slavery International.

In a landmark judgment on the first ever modern slavery case heard by the Supreme Court, the Court unanimously ruled that trafficked people have a right to claim damages from their traffickers irrespective of their immigration status.

Anti-Slavery International, who were represented by their solicitors, Public Interest Lawyers, intervened in the Supreme Court case to seek to change the common law defence of illegality so that victims of trafficking could bring a claim against their traffickers irrespective of their immigration status.

The Court ruled that employers guilty of trafficking should not be able to defend their actions on the basis that the people they exploit are in the UK illegally, using the so called 'defence of illegality'. The court ruled that, were it to uphold the defence of illegality, it would run contrary to both the UK's international law obligations with respect to trafficking, as well as existing public policy in the field of trafficking.

The case concerned a girl who as a child was trafficked into the UK and exploited as a domestic worker. She had been deceived into agreeing to this employment as her employer told her that she would be paid £50 per month and sent to school.

The court emphasised that the UK needs to honour its obligations under international law and protect the rights of victims of trafficking irrespective of their immigration status. If someone is coerced or forced into an illegal employment, they are victims of crime and their rights must be protected.