A Moldovan woman who was a victim of sex trafficking has obtained substantial undisclosed damages from the Home Office.
The groundbreaking settlement came as a High Court trial was about to start into her claim that the department had violated her human rights by returning her to Moldova in circumstances where they should have recognised the grave danger facing her.
Approving the confidential agreement, Mrs Justice Cox said the woman had been a victim of repeated trafficking over a long period of time and had suffered severe sexual degradation and resulting psychiatric injury.
She was very vulnerable and remained at significant risk of serious harm because the police had not been able to apprehend her traffickers, added the judge, sitting in London.
The woman's solicitor, Harriet Wistrich, of Birnberg Peirce and Partners, said she was kidnapped at 14 and continuously trafficked for forced prostitution in Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Israel and the UK until she was 21. She was repeatedly beaten, raped, threatened with death and treated as a slave.
In 2003, she was arrested in a London brothel by UK police and Home Office immigration officers, charged with possessing the false documents provided by her traffickers, imprisoned for three months and sent back to Moldova.
The lawyer said that the woman's trafficker was permitted to visit her in Holloway prison and Oakington detention centre, where he posed as her boyfriend, in order to intimidate her. In Moldova, she was found by her traffickers and savagely ill-treated before being re-trafficked for another two years.
Home Office Minister Damian Green said later: "This very disturbing case shows why our approach to human trafficking has changed significantly since 2003.
"In recognition of the need to identify victims of trafficking, the UK ratified and brought into force the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking.
"We have also introduced a National Referral Mechanism to refer and identify victims of trafficking and established mandatory training for all frontline UK Border Agency staff on human trafficking awareness."