Interim relief granted in legal challenge over new statutory guidance on Modern Slavery

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Raza Halim of the Garden Court Chambers Immigration and Public Law Teams is acting for the claimant, alongside Chris Butler KC and Katy Sheridan of Matrix Chambers.

Counsel are instructed by Shalini Patel, Hannah Baynes, Freya Mutimer, Hannah Jandu, Rhiannon Croker and Thomas Munns of Duncan Lewis Solicitors.

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Interim relief has been granted in a challenge to the Home Office’s Modern Slavery Guidance (version 3.1, March 2023) which was introduced in January 2023 as a result of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. This policy sets a new threshold that victims must meet in order for the Home Secretary to be satisfied that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that they are a victim of modern slavery.

Victims are now required to provide objective evidence within five working days of their referral into the National Referral Mechanism (“NRM”) – the U.K.’s framework for identifying and supporting victims of trafficking and modern slavery. If they are unable to do so, they will receive a negative reasonable grounds decision and be unable to access much-needed support. This is the case even if they meet the three essential components of trafficking which, in line with the previous policy, would have resulted in a positive reasonable grounds decision. Amongst other things, this support would include safe accommodation, psychological therapy, healthcare, legal aid and a designated support worker.

Despite accepting that the claimant’s account met the three necessary components of human trafficking and modern slavery, he received a negative reasonable grounds decision. Under the old guidance, this would have meant a positive decision and eligibility for support. Nevertheless, the claimant was unable to provide the objective evidence required by the new Guidance and he received a negative decision. He was summarily evicted from an NRM safe house and made homeless by the Home Secretary, putting him at acute risk of re-trafficking.

Following the issuing of urgent judicial review proceedings over the bank holiday weekend, the High Court granted interim relief for the claimant's support and accommodation to be reinstated immediately. A stay of the Home Secretary’s wider policy is further sought on the basis that the new statutory guidance is procedurally unfair and unlawfully means that potential victims can be denied the support and protection they are owed under international human rights law.

An interim relief hearing for the above is to be listed on the first available date after 12 June 2023.

The above content has been reproduced from a Duncan Lewis press release.

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