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Modern slavery & human trafficking

Modern slavery is estimated to be a £120 billion industry worldwide, affecting more than 21 million women, men and children. Globalisation, new technologies, and mass migration have made it possible for ruthless people to exploit others for vast profit.

The UK is seeing a year on year increase in the number of victims of trafficking being reported to official channels. In 2015, the number of potential victims who formally entered the system via the National Referral Mechanism was 3,266 – a 40% increase on 2014. But as modern slavery is a “hidden crime”, there are likely many thousands more victims who cannot access the help needed to escape exploitation. 

We are using our legal expertise to help combat modern slavery, whether in the UK or overseas. We represent the victims of modern slavery to fight for compensation to help them rebuild their lives.

Our lawyers are also pressing for better modern slavery provisions to be introduced both in the UK and in other countries.

Case study: Galdikas v DJ Houghton [2016] 

In 2016, we achieved substantial compensation for the first claimants to ever bring a High Court case against a British company in relation to modern slavery. 

The victims alleged that DJ Houghton Catching Services Limited, and its Kent-based director and company secretary, had subjected victims of human trafficking to severe labour exploitation. The farms to which the Houghtons sent the workers supplied chickens and free-range eggs for brands such as “Happy Eggs”, available in supermarkets across Britain. 

The claimants were trafficked to the United Kingdom from Lithuania and put to work on a gruelling schedule on farms across the country. The claimants alleged they were harassed, assaulted, and threatened by supervisors, housed in appalling conditions and kept in a constant state of uncertainty. The workers alleged they were punched and taunted by supervisors if it was felt they were not working fast enough. There was no respite from the harassment, as the workers were housed in accommodation to which Houghtons or their agents had constant access, and that one man paid by the Houghtons would threaten workers with aggressive Rottweiler dogs.

In June 2016, the High Court found that the company had failed to pay workers according to minimum wage requirements, had made unlawful deductions from wages, and had failed to provide adequate facilities to wash, rest, eat and drink. 

Following a substantial settlement reached in December 2016, the claimants have been able to proudly return to visit family in Lithuania, often for the first time in years. 

Another 10 workers are now pursuing claims in the High Court against the Houghtons, while a man allegedly involved in human trafficking is facing prosecution in Lithuania.

You can talk confidentially to a member of the Modern Slavery team by phoning +44 020 3481 6607, or fill in our enquiry form and someone will get back to you shortly. 

For information on access to justice for victims of modern slavery and/or trafficking in the employment tribunal, please click here.

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