Claimants win human trafficking case
Landmark verdict against UK gangmaster firm
This week the High Court ruled in favour of six men who were found to be victims of modern day slavery.
The landmark verdict found that the Kent-based gangmaster firm that employed them, DJ Houghton Chicken Catching Services, had exploited the men while working on chicken farms.
The judge, Justice Supperstone, found in favour of the Claimants on several key aspects of their claims finding that they were owed compensation for the firm’s failure to pay the agricultural minimum wage, for the charging of prohibited work-finding fees, for unlawfully withholding wages, and for depriving the workers of facilities to wash, rest, eat and drink.
Shanta Martin, who is representing the claimants states that:
“This is the first time the High Court has ruled in favour of victims of trafficking against a British company".
“It is an extremely important step towards proper compensation for our clients and should be seen as a warning to British companies that they must eradicate all forms of modern slavery from their businesses, whether in the UK or elsewhere”.
The claimants allege that they were trafficked to the UK with the involvement of a Lithuanian national who was paid for this service by the Houghton Defendants. Upon arrival in the UK, the Claimants say they were severely exploited by the Houghtons.
According to the legal complaint, the men, who were aged between 19 and 58, were driven from farm to farm across the UK, travelling up to seven hours before being put to gruelling work in filthy conditions without adequate personal protective equipment, clothing or proper pay.
Harsh conditions and unfair pay
They were paid by the number of chickens caught, without consideration for the number of hours worked, time spent travelling or time on-call.
The Claimants allege that their wages were often docked or withheld entirely, and that workers were threatened and abused by supervisors, including with the use of dogs.
DJ Houghton was condemned as “the worst UK gangmaster ever” by the public body tasked with protecting agricultural workers from labour exploitation, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).
Company supplies UK supermarkets
The company, based in Kent, ran a business providing labour to poultry farms across the UK, including farms that supply chickens and free-range eggs for major brands such as Happy Eggs, available in supermarkets across Britain.
The licence under which the company operated was revoked by the GLA on 29 October 2012 and 38 workers were referred to the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which confirmed that all the men were victims of trafficking.
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.
Further reading: Good eggs and bad eggs in UK supermarkets.
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