Wednesday, December 19, 2007

CICA and the Poppy Project

There's been a little publicity recently over the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority's decision to pay compensation to women trafficked into this country. To be clear on this, these payments are available to anybody who has suffered an injury as a result of a criminal act (assault, rape, battery etc) in this country. They are there for two reasons, one pragmatic, one symbolic.
The pragmatic reason is that the people who have committed these offences, and should thus equitably be responsible for the compensation are overwhelmingly incapable of so doing. People who need and deserve compensation for injuries suffered, should not be prevented from being able to do so because their attacker doesn't have the funds.
The symbolic reason is that an injury sustained as a result of a criminal attack is a failure by the state to uphold its covenant with the individual. The state, in return for reducing our liberty, covenants to secure our safety. That they have failed to do this is reflected in the state's moral obligation to compensate those who have suffered as a result.
Where this gets tricky, and emotive, is where the people being compensated are not British, and especially when they are here illegally. There is a huge problem in the UK at the moment with sex trafficking. Whether or not this is linked to the huge increase of (entirely legal) immigration from the Eastern European accession countries is a moot point - there is no denying the fact, however, that a significant proportion of trafficked women are from Eastern Europe, some from accession states and some not.
Regardless of their legal status in this country, the fate of these women is absolutely horrifying. There is an argument to be made for legalising and regulating (and taxing...) prostitution. It is, as someone said, where sex and the free market meet. Except, of course, that it isn't. There are not recruitment salons in Sofia where aspiring prostitutes audition. There are lies told to teenagers about waitressing and hairdressing jobs, and then abduction, multiple rape and abuse both physical and mental. Then there is effective imprisonment, in towns like London, Birmingham and even places like Cheltenham, where the girls are whored out 20 or 30 times a day. This isn't Belle de Jour.
So when Laban says, So if illegal immigrants are victims of crime while here, the taxpayer will compensate them, my answer would be, it is largely our responsibility that these girls have been abused for so long. The crimes weren't committed overseas, they were committed in bedsits in King's Cross. They were committed by men in England (regardless of whether they were English men) and they require compensation.
Incidentally, given that the legal profession has a generally hard time (and richly deserved most of it is too) I should pick up Laban on one point as well.
The authority, which awards compensation to victims of violent crime, has agreed payments for 'false imprisonment and forced prostitution during the time of their imprisonment' though neither exists as an official category for damages. Sarah Johnson, of Lovells, said: 'This will serve as a precedent for other cases and we are delighted.'
I'm presuming that Lovells are taxpayer funded via legal aid. And I know the Poppy Project is.
Lovells is a large, predominantly corporate, law firm just outside the so-called Magic Circle. They certainly don't need my support or defence. But they certainly aren't legal aid funded. Most if not all large law firms these days have a large pro bono unit, where lawyers of all sorts provide their services to certain 'worthy causes' free of charge. An example would be the death row appeals process, the majority of which have been handled, for free, by London firms. I am absolutely certain that this was the case here. And last point:
Former prostitutes with links to organised crime are just the New Britons we need.
Given that the 'links to organised crime' consisted of being abducted, multiply raped and then imprisoned for years and whored, I'm less prepared to say that this reflects poorly on the moral character of the women in question. Given that the entire point of the compensation, and the court cases which preceded it, was that the women had been abducted, and forced by violence to work as prostitutes, I question whether it's fair to even describe them as prostitutes. I am convinced, however, that it is grossly unfair to denigrate them for it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole area is highly contentious and ripe for exaggeration.

A lot of hyperbolic guff is written about sex trafficking, but the fact is is that it is a lot less prevalent than many would have you believe. At the simplest level, if you were an illegal immigrant working in the UK as a prostitute, were arrested and were asked if you were doing it off your own free will, don't you think you might find it better all round to claim that you had been forcibly trafficked?

10:58 am  
Blogger Tim J said...

Very possibly. But there have been criminal trials recently where people have been convicted of criminal trafficking into the UK, and of illegally detaining girls to work as prostitutes.

It is clear, therefore, that this is happening. That being said, I agree that care must be taken that this isn't simply an easy way to get compensation, it's just that where abuse and non-consensual prostitution has taken place, it ought to be recognised

12:15 pm  

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