The Metropolitan police have paid out £20,000 in compensation to four women whose allegations of slavery and abuse were not properly investigated.
Kidnapped from Nigeria and smuggled into the UK, these women were beaten and abused as they worked as slaves for families in north London. But when they finally found the courage to approach the police with their stories, the police "did nothing to commence an effective investigation".
One of the women first went to the police for help in 2004, while she was still in slavery.
She said: "It took all the courage I had to walk into Southgate police station and Enfield social services to ask for help in 2004 but they sent me back to my abusers and then blamed me."
The other three women escaped their abusers in 2007 and gained the support of Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC) and Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (AFRUCA).
Finally in 2009 the Met police investigated the women's allegations, after being threatened with judicial review.
The investigation revealed that a church pastor was responsible for smuggling children into the UK to be used as slaves. He was found guilty of people trafficking.
Following the pastor's conviction, a case was brought against the Met police. On Friday (20 May) Mr Justice Wyn Williams ruled that the Met police had breached the victim's rights by ignoring their allegations, and this contravened articles 3 and 4 of the European convention on human rights.
The Met police said: "It is of course a matter of deep regret that the claimants did not receive the levels of service which they expected. We will now carefully consider the judgment."
The women's solicitors, Bhatt Murphy, are concerned that by fighting the case, the Met police have sent "a dangerous message to officers that combating human trafficking is not a priority for the Met".
While campaigners AFRUCA hope the ruling will mean "victims of slavery receiving the support they so desperately need from the authorities".
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