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Landmark ruling by European rights court orders U.K. to compensate trafficking victims

  • Published on
    February 19, 2021
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  • Category:
    Child Slavery, Human Trafficking, Law & Policy
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On February 16, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the United Kingdom had violated the rights of two Vietnamese men by charging them for drug offences when they were children, despite signs that they had been victims of trafficking.

The two men, identified as Mr V.C.L. and Mr A.N., had been found on cannabis farms back in 2009. Mr. V.C.L, then 15 years old, had told the police that he had been smuggled into the U.K. by his adopted father and taken to the farm to work.

Concerns had been raised by social services that he may have been a victim of trafficking. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to 20 months in a young offender’s institution for the production of a controlled drug.

Seventeen-year-old Mr. A.N. had told the police that he had been made to work on the farm for no pay. He was sentenced to eighteen months on the same charge.

Though both minors, and though there were signs of trafficking, they were both prosecuted instead of being assessed for potential trafficking.

The minors appealed their cases in 2012 on the grounds that they had been victims of trafficking, but the British Court of Appeal dismissed both cases.

They then took their case jointly to the ECHR in November 2012. The case is a first of its kind for the ECHR and has implications for other European countries.

The court found that the lack of any assessment of trafficking may have prevented the minors from defending themselves from the 2009 charges and therefore the U.K. had violated two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely Article 4, prohibition of forced labor, and Article 6, right to a fair trial.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:

A record 10,627 suspected modern slaves were identified in Britain in 2019 – up by 52% in a year – while the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the crime further underground with victims less likely to be found or receive help, according to activists.

Police, lawyers and campaigners have raised concerns that children are often prosecuted on drug charges despite evidence suggesting they were coerced, and a legal defence protecting such defendants under Britain’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

One of the lawyers for the claimants, Parosha Chandran, told the Thomson Reuters  Foundation that, “This judgment will count for many victims today, tomorrow and in many years to come.”

The court ordered the U.K. to pay 25,000 euros in damages and 20,000 euros for costs and expenses to each of the applicants. The British Home Office is reportedly “carefully considering” the judgement.

Just this month, U.K. authorities came under fire from anti-slavery advocates for re-traumatizing trafficking victims by treating them like criminals as the news broke that immigration authorities had detained thousands of potential trafficking victims between January 2019 and September 2020.

Freedom United is calling on the U.K. to better support all trafficked children in the U.K. Join the campaign today.


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Ruth Mckeating
Ruth Mckeating
3 years ago

This is the hostile environment that makes me ashamed to be English.

Alan Bond
Alan Bond
3 years ago

And remember this evil legacy is being perpetuated by a descendent of IMMIGRANTS and who should be thoroughly ashamed of herself. While we vilify immigrants, it is a gift horse for those who exploit people who are vulnerable.

Carol Farnsworth
Carol Farnsworth
3 years ago

It’s time the general public stood up to these child should be forced to work producing drugs or any other substance detrimental to health.
All children entering this country should receive healthcare, education and a safe home in which to grow.
Anyone showing signs of criminal activity after receiving proper care should be deported, no argument.

Francina Arundell
Francina Arundell
3 years ago

Shame and embarrassment on behalf of the seemingly institutionalised heartlessness and incompetence of my country’s officialdom. Where is the humanity, let alone the imagination or reason?

Helen Kalkhoven Dickson
Helen Kalkhoven Dickson
3 years ago

Another reason to be ashamed of Britain’s treatment of children and immigrants. The Home Office and its ‘hostile environment’ is a cruel mean institution and does not set an example of justice.

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