Participation in modern slavery is an evil crime, but it also involves civil wrongs for which, with the right legal advice, victims can receive substantial compensation. In one case, three Eastern European men who were appallingly exploited whilst working in the UK were each awarded six-figure damages.
After being trafficked to the UK by a gangster on promises of a better life, the men were put to work in a factory. They were required to work between 10 and 18 hours a day and were accommodated in overcrowded and often squalid conditions. They never saw a penny of their meagre pay, which was far below the National Minimum Wage. Their money was instead remitted to the gangster, who paid them minimal sums that were barely enough to achieve subsistence.
The managing director of the company that employed them was eventually arrested and convicted of conspiring with others to arrange or facilitate travel within the UK for exploitation. That, however, was not the end of the matter and civil proceedings were launched on the men’s behalf, seeking damages for the multiple breaches of their employment rights. After default judgments were obtained against the company, all that remained was to assess the amount of their awards.
Ruling on the matter, the High Court noted that the cases were egregious examples of modern slavery. The men were entitled to be compensated for the failure to pay their wages, the failure to provide them with a safe place and system of work, and the intimidation, harassment and exploitation they endured.
All of them sustained psychiatric injury as a result of their treatment – two of them had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder – and each had suffered substantial past and future loss of earnings. They also stood to be compensated for injury to their feelings; their pain, suffering and loss of amenity; and the costs of their medical treatment. Their total awards came to over £700,000.