Couple must pay £100,000 to girl kept as slave

Posted by Malcolm Johnson on

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The BBC recently reported that Manchester Crown Court has ordered a couple from Salford to pay £100,000 to a deaf girl from Pakistan, whom they kept as a slave for nine years. She had been repeatedly raped and forced to work as a servant at the family's properties as a child. The couple were also ordered to repay £42,000 of benefits falsely claimed in her name, and £321,000 towards the cost of their trials.

Under the Powers of Criminal Courts Sentencing Act 2000, a criminal court has the power to make a compensation order in respect of a victim of crime. Section 126 states that where an individual has been convicted of an offence, the court may before sentencing him, make a financial circumstances order. Compensation shall be of such amount as the court consider appropriate, having regard to any evidence and to any representations that are made by or on behalf of the accused or the prosecutor.

Damages in any civil proceedings will be taken into account, but the court is not bound by the assessment of those damages. Criminal injuries compensation will also be taken into account in any Criminal Injuries Compensation award. Normally awards are reserved for simple cases.

In R v Kneeshaw the court said:

"It has been stressed in this court more than once recently that the machinery of a compensation intended for clear and simple cases...In a great majority of cases the appropriate court to deal with the issues raised by matters of this kind is in the appropriate civil proceedings. A compensation order made by the court can be extremely beneficial as long as it is confined to simple, straightforward cases and generally cases where no great amount is at stake."

In Hyde v Emery, Watkins LJ said:

".... the process of making compensation orders should be a very simple one. Courts should not be invited, and if invited, should decline the invitation, to endeavour to proceed to make compensation orders upon evidence out of which arise questions difficult to resolve of either fact or law or both."

However the 2000 Act could represent a quicker way of obtaining a judgment against a Defendant with means, particularly in a smaller case without any complex financial loss. The conventional civil route may take many months and may only begin after the conviction of the Defendant.

In this case from Salford, the victim would certainly have a substantial civil claim against the Defendants. In an unreported decision from the Court of Appeal, Godwin v Uzoigwe 16th June 1992, a girl aged 16 to 18 was kept for 2 ½ years in the Defendant’s house as a slave, required to work very long hours and kept a virtual prisoner. She received £20,000 including aggravated damages. As this case was heard in 1992, it is likely that she would have received very much more today.

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About the Author

Malcolm is an Senior Associate in our London office, with nearly twenty years' experience.

Malcolm Johnson
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