Trafficking, Illegality and Compassion

04 Aug 2014

In a striking act of compassion the Supreme Court ruled that an employer's defence of illegality was trumped by public policy that this is an affront to justice. I'll let the facts speak for themselves.

An Employment Tribunal found that in 2007 Mrs A was complicit, with her brother and mother, in an illegal arrangement which brought Miss H from Lagos to the UK. The deal was that Mrs A would employ Miss H as a home help, send her to school, provide board and lodging and £50 a month.

Miss H was aged about 14 at the time. She was illiterate. She was uneducated, had a learning disability and long term emotional difficulties.

An Employment Tribunal found that in the course of the (unlawful) employment Mrs A provided board and lodging and bought Miss H some earrings and clothes but didn't enrol her in school and didn’t pay her. Mrs A inflicted serious physical abuse on Miss H and caused her extreme concern by telling her that if she left the house and was found by the police she would be sent to prison because she was in this country illegally.

The tribunal went on the find that on 17 July 2008 Mrs A smacked and hit Miss H; that after Miss H put Mrs A's children to bed Mrs A attacked and beat her, threw her out of the house and poured water over her.  When Mrs A's husband returned from work he let Miss H back into the house but later told his wife she could do whatever she liked to Miss H.  Mrs A told Miss H to leave the house and die.  Miss H slept the night in the garden in her wet clothes.  No one would let her back into the house the following morning.  She made her way to a supermarket car park from where someone took her to the Social Services department of the Local Authority.

Miss H's legal action was supported by a charity, Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (, founded by 5 lawyers and she was represented in the Supreme Court by 2 barristers acting Pro Bono.