H was trafficked to the UK from Vietnam as a child. He was taken captive in Ho Chi Minh City by his traffickers aged 15. He was tortured, raped and forced into debt bondage. He was beaten with electrified sticks and burned with heated rods. He was then trafficked to the U.K, deliberately starved, deprived of his liberty, and forced to tend cannabis plants in Derbyshire.
When he was 17, H was found by the police at a cannabis house in Derbyshire. Although he presented with clear indicators of trafficking, the Police failed to refer him on to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). He was arrested and charged with cannabis cultivation. As he was a child, H was released into the care of the Local Authority whilst his criminal case was ongoing. H absconded from local authority care.
A year later H was found at a property raided by the police. He was arrested on suspicion of illegal entry and then remanded in custody because of his outstanding criminal charges. Once again the police did not recognise him as a victim of trafficking or refer him to the NRM.
H was interviewed by an Immigration Officer and repeated the account of his experience as a victim of trafficking, which he had raised at his previous arrest. It was only then that he was referred onto the NRM process. H quickly received a positive reasonable grounds decision, in support of his account that he was a victim of trafficking.
The Competent Authority is obliged to communicate positive reasonable grounds decision to the police, who in turn should inform the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS). However, in our client’s case the Competent Authority did not inform the police or the CPS. The CPS has since confirmed that, had they been aware of the positive reasonable grounds decision, they may not have prosecuted H as it would not have been in the public interest to do so.
Without this, H was convicted and sentenced to 8 months imprisonment for cannabis cultivation. H was noted to be a model detainee throughout the period he was imprisoned. He served 4 months of his sentence and was subsequently detained by the Home Secretary under immigration powers. He was transferred from a Youth Offenders Institute to Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre (IRC).
In total, H was imprisoned for 4 months and unlawfully detained by the Home Secretary in immigration detention for over 12 months.
Whilst unlawfully detained at Morton Hall IRC by the Home Secretary, our client was sexually assaulted and subject to an attempted rape in his cell by a fellow detainee. He told staff at the detention centre what happened, and he was informed that the incident would be investigated. A fight later broke out between his attacker and several other detainees. The Detention Centre records of this incident show that detention centre staff were aware that this fight was a result of our client’s attacker sexually harassing other detainees, including our client. This incident was not investigated internally by the detention centre, or referred to the police for a criminal investigation. After the assault, H was unlawfully detained by the Home Secretary for a further 6 months.
Our client says:
“[My] time in immigration detention was awful. After this incident, I was really paranoid that other detainees would hurt me all of the time. I felt scared all the time and I found it very difficult to sleep or eat. Morton Hall staff do not protect the detainees. Although terrible things have happened to me in the past, the effect of immigration detention made this even worse.”
According to clinical psychologists who assessed H during his detention, he was left severely traumatised and feared for his life after the assault, which triggered memories of earlier rape and abuse he had suffered at the hands of his traffickers.
Morton Hall accepts that the assault took place, but did not launch an investigation into the attempted rape or provide any support to H after the attack. The centre began an internal enquiry into the attack only after being contacted by Duncan Lewis.
Lead solicitor, Ahmed Aydeed, and a team of Public Law practitioners are bringing a civil claim on behalf of our client against the Home Secretary and the Ministry of Justice, who runs Morton Hall IRC, for negligence, breach of statutory duty and the ongoing failure to initiate any internal investigation or referral to the police for a criminal investigation of the allegation of sexual assault made by the our client, under s.6 and Articles 3, 8 and 14 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Ministry of Justice has accepted that they failed to investigate the incident and has issued an apology.
Our client is represented by Ahmed Aydeed, Rachael Davis, and Karen Staunton from Duncan Lewis. Helen Law of Matrix Chambers acts as counsel.
Duncan Lewis Public Law Solicitors
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