Forced labour

Slavery is prohibited under the Human Rights Act. But until 2009 the UK did not have a criminal law dedicated to the particular circumstances of forced labour and servitude, and victims were falling through the gap.

The case

Liberty took on the case of a woman who had been brought into the UK from West Africa and forced to work as a domestic servant for a family in London. After more than two years she escaped and reported the matter to the police, but no proper investigation was carried out.

In response to our call for a judicial review, the police accepted that they had breached Article 4 of the Human Rights Act, the prohibition on slavery, and agreed to reopen the investigation.

In 2010 our client’s employer was convicted of assault and given a twelve-month conditional discharge. She was also ordered to pay £750 towards prosecution costs and £400 in compensation to Ms Asuquo. The police have formally apologised for the failings in their first investigation.

Read our press release.

A new law

In June 2009 Liberty and Anti-Slavery International suggested the creation of a new offence to outlaw modern slavery, and Baroness Young of Hornsey laid an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill.

Following pressure from parliamentarians, lawyers, trade unions and the general public, the Government conceded in October that year that a new law was necessary - read our press release for more information. The Government introduced an amendment which became law in section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.