Categorized | Civil Liberties

Review of legal aid for people trafficking victims

Review of legal aid for people trafficking victims

The Lord Chancellor has agreed to conduct an urgent review of legal aid provisions for people bringing compensation claims against their traffickers.

LASPO made legal aid available for victims of trafficking to bring compensation claims against those who exploited them, for example as employment matters. However, when LASPO came into force, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) didn’t include such claims within a mainstream contract category, instead bundling them into the “miscellaneous” category along with around 20 other types of case.The result is that organisations bringing these sorts of cases are severely limited in their ability to do so. These are not straightforward or simple cases, and the categorisation of them as “miscellaneous,” and the limiting of the numbers of such cases per year, puts an effective barrier in the way of cases being taken on.

Many victims are unable to access advice because of the limited number of legal aid providers able to deal with compensation claims, and the limited number of such claims each organisation can handle.

The Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU), a charity that provides legal representation to victims of human trafficking, brought a judicial review challenging the adequacy of legal aid provision following changes made by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

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.

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.”

ATLEU was represented by Shu Shin Luh, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers who acted pro bono for it. “If the government wants to realise its commitment under the Modern Slavery Act to providing victims of trafficking and modern slavery a right to seek reparations from their traffickers,” she said, “then it must ensure that there is a system in place which gives victims effective and practical access to legal advice and assistance to realise their rights. This hasn’t happened to date. 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.”

Hearing the judicial review, Mr Justice Blake said it was arguable that the arrangements amounted to a breach of the government’s duty to make legal aid available to victims. He granted permission for ATLEU to pursue the challenge and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and LAA agreed to undertake a review of the provisions by the end of June 2016. Following the concession, ATLEU withdrew its legal action.
The purpose of the review, agreed by government, is to identify whether there are barriers to advice and assistance. If there are, then the review should identify the causes and assess what steps should be taken to remedy them.

In light of the ‘considerable urgency in relation to this review’, the government said it aimed to present its recommendations to the minister for legal aid, Shailesh Vara MP, by the end of June. The government has also agreed to implement any approved recommendations as soon as practically possible. The review will not, however, consider widening the scope of civil legal aid for victims of trafficking.
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This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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