In the first case of its kind against a British company, earlier today the High Court held that DJ Houghton Catching Services Ltd and company officers Darrell Houghton and Jackie Judge are liable to pay compensation to 6 Lithuanian victims of trafficking. This is the first case in which a British company has been ordered to pay compensation to victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. The amount of compensation to be paid to the Claimants will be assessed at a future date. Other aspects of the claim, such as personal injury claims, also remain to be determined.
The six men were brought to the UK from Lithuania by a man allegedly engaged by DJ Houghton to recruit workers. The claimants were employed by DJ Houghton catching chickens on farms between 2008 and 2012, and have been officially recognized as victims of human trafficking by the government. According to the men, they worked extremely long hours for little pay, were housed in overcrowded, filthy accommodation, and received threats and beatings.
The decision by Justice Supperstone represents a victory for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation, who rarely see their employers held accountable. However, this decision comes at a time when access to compensation for victims of trafficking is being increasingly restricted despite the Government’s stated commitment to protect victims’ rights. Significant barriers, including limited access to legal aid, insufficient support, and lack of specific avenues to compensation for victims of human trafficking, mean that most victims never get justice for what happened to them.
Commenting on the decision, Claire Falconer, Legal Director at Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) said:
“This decision is an important step forward in holding companies to account for their involvement in modern slavery. However, more needs to be done to ensure that all victims of human trafficking have access to justice and can obtain compensation.”
Highlighting the importance of compensation for victims, she said:
“To a victim of human trafficking, receiving compensation represents a chance at starting a new life. Access to compensation can be the difference between having the resources to stay safe or going back to face further exploitation.”
“After escaping exploitation, victims of trafficking often find themselves in very difficult situations: many suffer the physical and mental health impacts of their exploitation, and most struggle to secure stable accommodation or ensure their livelihoods. In those circumstances, receiving compensation is not only a matter of justice, but it can also be a lifeline for highly vulnerable victims who remain at a serious risk of exploitation and re-trafficking.”
Notes to Editors:
1. Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) is a UK based charity working to end labour exploitation, for more information see www.labourexploitation.org