Trafficking victim wins case over Salvation Army data breach | Home Office

A victim of county lines trafficking has won a landmark victory in the high court securing new protections against the Salvation Army handing over confidential information to the Home Office.

The 25-year-old British woman, who cannot be identified, has received compensation from the Home Office and secured a change in policy relating to the way the Salvation Army, which has a victim care contract with the Home Office to look after and support trafficking victims, shares confidential information about these victims with the Home Office.

The victory could help potentially thousands of other trafficking victims.

Ahmed Aydeed, of Duncan Lewis solicitors, who represents the trafficking victim who brought the court case, said: “It is essential that trafficking victims get their support in a trust-based relationship where there is clarity about what information provided by victims may be shared with the home secretary.

“It could have a profoundly chilling effect upon the willingness of vulnerable victims to engage with support services if they fear of misuse of their private and confidential information. It is shameful that it took our courageous client’s legal challenge to force the home secretary to introduce these safeguards rather than the Salvation Army advocating for change.”

The Salvation Army has supported more than 10,000 adult victims of modern slavery since July 2011. In June 2020 it secured a new five-year contract with government to do this work. Any trafficking victims supported by the Salvation Army whose confidential information has wrongly been shared by the charity with the Home Office could now be in line for compensation payouts.

The woman who brought the legal challenge has received a payout of £5,000 for the breach of her confidential data.

The problem came to light after it emerged that a central database used by Salvation Army support workers to store confidential data about trafficking victims, including information about any legal case they might be pursuing against the Home Office and other information relating to victims’ personal circumstances that is not relevant to their trafficking claim, was being shared with the Home Office.

Prior to the high court challenge, there was no policy about what confidential information about trafficking victims should or should not be handed over to the Home Office by the Salvation Army.

In the course of the high court challenge, the Home Office accepted that it did not have the right to gather information that was legally privileged and related to legal cases that trafficking victims were bringing against the Home Office.

The woman argued that the Home Office’s ability to access this sensitive information breached her human rights, her rights under common law to communicate confidentially with her legal adviser, and the general data protection regulation (GDPR). Her confidential information has now been erased from the database.

After the launch of the legal challenge, the Home Office introduced new guidance with safeguards on what confidential information the Salvation Army can share with government officials.

The trafficking authority, the Single Competent Authority management board, admitted there was “minimal guidance” on data processing for the victim care contract the Salvation Army has with the Home Office to look after trafficking victims.

The Home Office has directed the Salvation Army not to pass on certain information relating to trafficking victims unless they have given consent for this.

A spokesperson for the Salvation Army said: “It is a judgment about data, and relates to the data controller, which is the Home Office.”

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

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