Receiving a brief by Rebecca Pickering

This blog is the first of two that discusses the challenge of representing a victim of trafficking. In part two I will cover the day of the hearing. I have done this from counsel’s perspective, so this is by no means a complete guide, but rather some points to consider. Just as there is no typical victim of trafficking, I do not believe that there is only one way of caring for a client at court who has survived trafficking.

When I receive a brief which involves a victim of trafficking, I read through it and ask myself the difficult questions:

  • Am I the right representative for this client?
  • Would this client be better served with counsel of the same sex?
  • Do they need someone with more experience?

It is an honest conversation that I would urge each counsel to have. 

Once I have decided to accept a brief there are two further things I consider:

  1. After reading the witness statement or the asylum interview, is there anything I need clarifying or want to know in further detail to help advance my client’s case?  My instructing solicitor will have taken considerable time and effort to foster an environment of trust allowing the client to give their instructions without fear. I prefer not to leave further questions to the day as this may make my client anxious. Victims of trafficking are inherently vulnerable. I am always mindful of the impact of trauma and getting a client to relive this in a new and stressful environment.
  2. What are my client’s expectation for the hearing? While each client is different, there is one common thread that runs through each trafficking case:  loss of control. 
    Give the control back! What would give them the best possible experience? An all female court? The judge sitting on the same level as you? Do not presume but be mindful to ask the right questions. We have the guidance note for vulnerable clients which enables us to do this and more!

The The Human Trafficking Handbook is another useful source of information which includes contributions from specialist lawyers working in the trafficking field across the UK.

Rebecca Pickering is a barrister at Kenworthy's Chambers, specialising in immigration and asylum law, with a particular interest in protection based claims.