Landmark Supreme Court judgment on human trafficking

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Four members of Garden Court Chambers, Jan Luba QC, Kathryn Cronin, Ronan Toal and Michelle Brewer, were instructed for the intervener, Anti-Slavery International (ASI), in the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment on the issue of human trafficking.

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The ‘victim’ in this case was a child domestic worker brought to the UK by her trafficker and exploited here.  The claim for compensation that she brought against her trafficker was defeated in an employment tribunal on the ground that she knew she had entered the UK illegally and she knew that she was working illegally.

ASI invited the Supreme Court to reconsider the application of that common law defence of ‘illegality’, in the context of the UK’s international obligations to victims of trafficking.

A majority of the Supreme Court justices accepted ASI’s submissions. Lord Wilson (with whom Lady Hale and Lord Kerr agreed) held that application of the illegality defence could appear to encourage traffickers to enter into illegal contracts of employment with their workers and ‘might engender a belief’ in such employers that they could discriminate against their exploited employees with impunity.

The majority held that it would be a breach of the UK’s international obligations under the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings for its law to cause a complaint by a victim to be defeated by the defence of illegality.

The judgment can be found here:

Jan Luba QC, Kathryn Cronin, Ronan Toal and Michelle Brewer are all members of Garden Court's Public and Administrative Law Team.

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