The Administrative Court has handed down judgment in R (PM) v SSHD  EWHC 1551 (Admin), in which Bindmans acted for the Claimant PM.
The case considered a number of actions taken by the Home Office in relation to victims of trafficking in receipt of asylum support.
PM is a victim of trafficking and an asylum seeker. When she was recognised as a potential victim of trafficking in 2019, she started receiving £35 per week in trafficking support payments. When PM became homeless during lockdown, she was also granted asylum support and placed in hotel accommodation (also known as ‘initial accommodation’). Her trafficking support payments continued at £35 per week, even though she was entitled to £65 per week under the Home Office’s own policy at the time. She also received £5 a week in asylum support payments.
On 6 July 2020, without warning, the Home Secretary stopped all trafficking payments to victims of trafficking in hotel accommodation, including to PM. This meant PM went from receiving £40 a week in cash support to just £5 a week.
On 28 August 2020, the Home Secretary issued amended guidance, without any consultation, which provided that victims of trafficking in asylum accommodation would receive £25.40 per week. This was at a lower rate than both the old policy (£65) and the amount PM had been receiving before the payments stopped (£35).
In a detailed judgment, the court:
- Held that the Home Secretary was obliged to pay victims of trafficking in initial asylum accommodation financial support of £65 per week, pursuant to her guidance in force until 28 August 2020.
- Found that the Home Secretary’s decision in July 2020 to stop all financial payments to victims of trafficking was unlawful and ‘absolutely indefensible’.
- Held that the Home Secretary’s amended guidance on 28 August 2020, which reintroduced financial support at a lower rate than previously, was unlawful due to a failure to consult.
The effect of this judgment is that victims of trafficking who were housed in initial accommodation from April 2020 – 27 August 2020 should be entitled to back payments of underpaid trafficking support. The back payments should also be made for any losses incurred as a result of the cessation decision of 6 July 2020.
Liz Barratt, partner at Bindmans LLP representing PM, comments:
We are very pleased that the court has recognised that the Home Office’s actions towards asylum seeking victims of trafficking were unlawful and indefensible. To suddenly stop virtually all cash support to our client, in the middle of lockdown and where she had no other support to rely on, was highly traumatising and distressing for our client.
It is disappointing that the Home Office chose to fight this claim for so long, having already lost in the Court of Appeal on the interpretation of this same policy. Our client has shown incredible fortitude in bringing this case in the hope it would help other victims of trafficking. We hope now that the Home Office will accept the court’s clear judgment, and ensure victims of trafficking in our client’s position are properly paid the support they were entitled to.
The Claimant PM is represented by Liz Barratt and Amy O’Shea of Bindmans LLP, along with Samantha Knights KC of Matrix Chambers and Miranda Butler of Landmark Chambers.