O.O.O., aged 15 at the time, was brought to England from Nigeria by a man to whom she had been introduced to a week before her arrival. Her parents had been persuaded to permit O.O.O. to go to the UK so that she could receive a better education. On arrival in the United Kingdom, O.O.O. was met by Mrs A. and taken to her home. She was required to care for the A.'s two children and do all the housework. She worked between about 6.00am and 11.00pm. O.O.O. was never paid for the work she did and was frequently physically abused by Mrs A. Mr and Mrs A. also terrified O.O.O. by telling her that she would be arrested if she went to the police.
O.O.A., also Nigerian, arrived in the United Kingdom in December 1997 when she was aged 11. Her aunt in Nigeria was under the impression that she was going to the UK in order to complete her education. She ended up in the home of Mrs Adeniji, where she was required to look after 4 children, one of which was disabled. She was also required to carry out all the domestic work. O.O.A. was also the victim of very significant violence carried out by Mrs Adeniji. In 2000 O.O.A. was taken to live with Ms Rochford for approximately 3 years during which time she was required to work for her and care for her 2 children. Ms Rochford also became violent towards her, regularly beating her with a stick. In April 2006 Mrs Adeniji beat O.O.A. so severely that she rendered her unconscious.
Plaintiff 3 (Anonymous) was brought to the United Kingdom from Nigeria in September 2000 when she was 14 years old. Upon arrival plaintiff 3 was taken to the house of Mrs B. where she was required to look after Mrs B.’s baby and carry out all the household tasks. Plaintiff 3 began work at approximately 6.30am every morning and often worked into the early hours. She was also subjected to violence. Plaintiff 3 suffered very severe migraines and the doctor advised her to rest, though Mrs B. required her to work even after her operation.
R. was born in Nigeria and arrived in the United Kingdom in 1999 when she was 15 years old. She took the trip with an agent who had been paid the sum of £2000 by Mr and Mrs C. to arrange the passage. On arrival R. was taken to the home of Mr and Mrs C. and was required to undertake a significant workload. She received aggressive and violent treatment from Mr and Mrs C. R. escaped to a police station, though she returned to Mr and Mrs C.’s place as no action was taken against them and R. had no other place to live than their home.
No investigation into the abuse perpetrated upon the plaintiffs had been undertaken by 14 November 2008.
All the claimants in this case asserted that the police had an investigative duty, which arose by November 2007; by this stage each was making a credible complaint of breaches of Articles 3 and 4 ECHR and of serious criminal offences. In justification of their inaction, the police had suggested that there was a lack of cooperation from the claimants. Hearing the case, Judge Williams considered this “untenable”. He concluded that by 2007 the claimants were victims of the failure to investigate. “Their names were known to the police; they wanted their complaints to be investigated. They were directly affected by the failure to carry out an effective investigation”. Accordingly, each of the claimants was entitled to a declaration to the effect that their human rights were breached. Due to the fact that they suffered distress and frustration on account of the failure to investigate, the Judge concluded that each claimant should receive £5,000.
Findings of the Court:
Four women, who were brought to London from Nigeria as children, each are to receive £5,000 from the (London) Metropolitan Police Service for their failing to investigate allegations of slavery.
The women were made to work for long hours with no pay in various households between 1997 and 2006. They were often physically and emotionally abused.
The findings centred on the fact that the Police had infringed on the victims’ rights under Articles 3 (cruel and inhuman treatment) and 4 (slavery) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The victims sought a declaration to that effect and damages pursuant to section 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The victims’ case was that over a significant period of time a number of officers of the Metropolitan Police failed to undertake any such investigation necessary to observe the States Parties’ duty under the ECHR.
According to the Human Rights Act 1998, the victim of an unlawful act incompatible with rights under the ECHR may bring proceedings against the relevant public authority. If the court finds that a public authority has acted unlawfully, the court may grant such relief or remedy as it considers just and appropriate.
In this case, the issue was on the scope of a positive obligation, which is imposed on the police under Articles 3 & 4 of ECHR. The precedent of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) showed that one of the positive obligations imposed on the police was the obligation to prevent a person from being subject to treatment falling within Article 3 or 4. The first sentence of Article 2(1) enjoins the State not only to refrain from the intentional and lawful taking of life but also to take appropriate steps to safeguard the lives of those within its jurisdiction. Article 2 may also imply a positive obligation on the authorities to take preventive operational measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk from the criminal acts of another individual.
The Court referred to Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia (ECtHR), stating that “in order for a positive obligation to take operational measures to arise in the circumstances of a particular case, it must be demonstrated that the state authorities were aware, or ought to have been aware, of circumstances giving rise to a credible suspicion that an indentified individual had been or was at real and immediate risk of being, trafficked or exploited within the meaning of Article 3(a) of the Palermo Protocol and Article 4 of the Anti-Trafficking Convention”. The Court found that the police would be under a duty to carry out an effective investigation of an allegation of a breach of Article 4 once a credible account of an alleged infringement had been brought to its attention, and that the trigger for the duty would not depend on an actual complaint from a victim or near relative of a victim. Considering all evidence before the court, the Court found that the Paladin officers were in breach of the investigative duty, which was first triggered during the summer or autumn of 2007. Thus the Court concluded that as from this period of 2007 the victims were victims of the failure to investigate. The Court further stated that in the absence of the intervention by the victims’ present solicitors and in the absence of the threat of legal proceedings there would have been no offer to investigate the victims’ complaints.
The Court dismissed claims made by the Metropolitan Police Service that the women would not co-operate, the Judge awarded damages based on the Police Service’s failure to carry out an effective investigation over a significant period of time.
European Convention for the Protection for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 3
European Convention for the Protection for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 4
Human Rights Act 1998, Section 8
Queen’s Bench Division
 EWHC 1246 (QB)