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Government cuts to support for victims of human trafficking ruled unlawful

Related Member(s):
Chris Buttler, Ayesha Christie
Related Practice Area(s):
Human Rights, Immigration, Asylum and Free Movement, Public Law, Discrimination and Equality

On 26 October 2017, the Government announced that it would “radically improve the support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery”. In fact, from 1 March 2018 it cut the financial support for over 1000 potential victims of trafficking by 42%, from £65 per week, to £37.75 per week. Chris Buttler and Ayesha Christie, instructed by Silvia Nicolaou Garcia of Simpson Millar LLP, challenged the legality of the cuts to financial support on behalf of AM, a 19 year old who had fled persecution and severe exploitation.

Mr Justice Mostyn ruled that the Home Office had acted unlawfully in imposing the cut, characterizing the Home Office’s decision as “irrational and perverse”. The Judge additionally found that the cuts were discriminatory, and that the Home Secretary had failed to comply with the public sector equality duty. The Judge ordered the Home Office to make back-payments to the Claimants and anyone else subjected to the cuts. The repayments owed are likely to exceed £1 million.

The judge also addressed the Home Office’s wider duties to victims of trafficking and modern slavery under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Under the relevant provisions of the Act, which were brought into force in 2015, the Home Office should have issued guidance to public authorities and other appropriate bodies about the indicators of human trafficking and modern slavery, the assistance and support that should be provided to victims, and arrangements for determining whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person may be a victim. The judge noted that no such guidance has yet been introduced and held that the Home Secretary has an “absolute duty immediately to issue the guidance that Parliament has required of him” and that “any further delay would be completely unacceptable”.