MoJ to urgently review legal aid for trafficking victims

Topics: Employment,Legal aid and access to justice

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The Ministry of Justice will urgently review its provision of legal aid for people bringing claims for compensation against their traffickers, in response to a judicial review of the current scheme.

The government’s review will identify barriers to legal advice, their causes and what actions should be taken as a result. It will be completed by the end of June.

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The ministry agreed to the review after legal charity, the Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU), challenged the adequacy of legal aid following changes made under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

The changes removed all employment related claims and civil claims for compensation against private individuals from the scope of legal aid.

In its application for judicial review, the charity said the current system carries an ‘unacceptable risk’ that trafficked victims’ right of access to legal advice might be curtailed.

Mr Justice Blake (pictured) granted the judicial review challenge, as he said the arrangements breached the government’s duty to make legal aid available to trafficking victims. However before the hearing took place, the MoJ agreed to a review, prompting the charity to withdraw its claims.

Shu Shin Luh, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers who represented the charity, said: ‘It is hoped that with this review the lord chancellor will now adhere to his commitments toward trafficking victims to ensure they are able to exercise their right to seek reparations and hold to account those who have exploited them.’

Jamila Duncan-Bosu, a founding member of ATLEU, said: ‘In the recent case of Tirkey v Chandok, Ms Tirkey, a victim of trafficking who suffered unlawful caste discrimination, won £263,000.

'If Ms Tirkey sought advice from us today we simply would not be able to help her with her claim because of the government’s inadequate provision of legal aid for victims of trafficking and modern slavery.’ 

Freshfields and Garden Court Chambers acted for the charity pro bono. The government will pay £12,000 in costs to the Access to Justice Foundation under the scheme for pro bono cost orders. 

Readers' comments (1)

  • Well done ATLEU! When the Modern Slavery Bill was going through Parliament the Home Office resisted calls to amend the bill so as to give victims an actionable right not to be enslaved. So they are stuck with existing torts which may not easily suit their circumsatnces.

    Of course, effective enforcement always requires the fear of civil action, which presents a bigger risk to trafficers and their assets than the sclerotic and timid approach of public service enforcement agents.

    Robert Morfee

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