A couple have received £10,000 each after police failed to investigate their trafficking case.
The Polish couple, in their 40s, have been formally identified as victims of modern slavery in the UK, having been trafficked for forced labour on a farm.
Antoni* and Dorota* were referred to Hope for Justice in 2019 and our team established that they had reported their experiences to the police but never received a response.
One of our Independent Modern Slavery Advocates (IMSAs), who has been working with the couple, said: “The survivors were under the impression that, because they had not heard anything from the police, their case had been concluded and the traffickers may have been arrested.”
Exploitation ‘never been properly investigated’
Antoni and Dorota were exploited in two parts of the UK and so our team contacted the two relevant police forces for an update.
Our IMSA said: “It turned out that their exploitation had never been properly investigated. There was confusion over which police force should investigate and in the end, neither did.”
Our team asked the police to reopen their investigation, which resulted in them taking new statements. This process was traumatic for the survivors, who had to relive their experiences. Officers were eventually able to arrest the traffickers but because of the lapse of time, they could not prosecute. Police visited the couple in person to apologise.
Our IMSA said: “Both survivors suffered from sleepless nights and anxiety as a result of knowing that their traffickers were still on the loose. They were looking over their shoulders every time they left their home. They were worried that the traffickers would find them and cause them further harm.”
Seeking legal advice
Hope for Justice referred the survivors to a specialist law firm, Bindmans LLP, for advice about claiming compensation for the police’s failures.
We supported the couple during appointments with the solicitors and were present during telephone and video calls. We provided ongoing support for the couple, who were naturally very anxious, particularly when asked questions about their exploitation and the investigation.
Bindmans LLP were successful in securing more than £10,000 each for Antoni and Dorota.
The survivors said of the result: “We are very happy with the outcome. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without Hope for Justice’s support and are grateful for the charity’s help. We are also very grateful to our solicitors for all their work and for representing us.”
A settlement offer was made to the couple earlier this year, but on the advice of the solicitor, the couple decided not to accept it. The law firm successfully managed to negotiate a higher settlement.
Bindmans LLP ‘delighted’ to have assisted survivors
Joseph Morgan, Solicitor at Bindmans LLP, said: “The right to freedom from slavery is an absolute right, which imposes a positive duty on police forces to investigate credible allegations of trafficking and modern slavery. In these survivors’ case, this simply did not happen. After being picked up by the system and recognised as victims, they were left for years wondering if those responsible for their ordeal had been brought to justice. To learn years later that the perpetrators had faced no consequences and were still out there has had a significant impact on both of them. I am delighted to have assisted them to secure an acknowledgement of responsibility from Nottinghamshire Police for their failure to take action when they should have. I hope this has helped the survivors move forward with their lives. This case should act as a reminder for police forces to take seriously their responsibilities to the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Advocacy and overturning unfair convictions
During their exploitation, Antoni and Dorota were both compelled to steal by their traffickers, resulting in theft convictions in their name.
Our team previously referred the couple to a specialist criminal lawyer for advice and representation on reopening and overturning these convictions.
You can read more here about the successful appeal which proved their innocence.
Our team continues to advocate on their behalf to make sure they are put in a priority category for permanent housing.
The couple said they intend to save the compensation money for their future home.
They told us: “We are hoping to move to permanent accommodation in the near future so will save to buy some furniture and furnishings for our home.
“We both have health problems and are currently unable to work but we hope that we will make a full recovery and be able to work at some point in the future. At the moment, finding and being in stable accommodation is key for us.”
The couple will also look to pursue a compensation case for their trafficking experiences and Hope for Justice will continue to assist with this.
We have approached Nottinghamshire Police for a comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.
*Names and image changed to protect identity of the survivors
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