The Modern Slavery Act 2015

Posted by Malcolm Johnson on

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I attended a lecture at 7 Bedford Row last week, given by James Robotham, a barrister.

The talk was around the subject of the recent Supreme Court decision in the cases of Taiwo v Olaigbe and Onu v Akwiwu [2016] UKSC 31, [2016] 1 WLR 2653 where two migrant workers argued that they had been discriminated against on the grounds of their race.  

Every year large numbers of adults and children are trafficked into this country and exploited. The decision of the Supreme Court is of interest to abuse compensation lawyers, because of what Baroness Hale had to say about the rights of such people, when they seek redress:-

"The mistreatment of migrant domestic workers by employers who exploit their employees' vulnerable situation is clearly wrong. The law recognises this in several ways. Depending on the form which the mistreatment takes, it may well amount to a breach of the worker's contract of employment or other employment rights. It may also amount to a tort. It may even amount to the offence of slavery or servitude or forced or compulsory labour under section 1 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 or of human trafficking under section 2 of that Act. If a person is convicted of such an offence and a confiscation order made against him, the court may also make a slavery and trafficking reparation order under section 8 of the Act, requiring him to pay compensation to the victim for any harm resulting from the offence. But such orders can only be made after a conviction and confiscation order; and remedies under the law of contract or tort do not provide compensation for the humiliation, fear and severe distress which such mistreatment can cause."

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 was passed into law in March 2015. It provides for the prosecution and punishment of traffickers and exploiters, as well as reparation orders. However the Act does not provide for any kind of statutory tort. This means that a person subjected to slavery has to use traditional torts such as assault, battery, intimidation and false imprisonment. The case of AT v Dulghieru [2009] EWHC 225 (QB) was a case involving women trafficked into the country and forced to work as prostitutes. They received large awards including aggravated damages.

There is also the option of the Protection from Harassment 1997 and the claim identified in the case of Wilkinson v Downton.

Another problem is that the traffickers may be quite impossible to pursue for any kind of compensation.

There is also the option of making a claim to the CICA, but very often victims find themselves caught by the CICA's draconian provisions which prevent claims being brought out of time. 

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

Malcolm Johnson
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