A historic precedent for victims of human trafficking in France

A historic precedent for victims of human trafficking in France

Press releases | 16 April 2024

16 April 2024 – The Cour de cassation, France’s highest supreme Court, has handed down a historic judgment for victims of human trafficking. The client was represented on a pro bono basis by Hogan Lovells International LLP and Patrice Spinosi.

Spanning a period of four years, a team from the Paris office of Hogan Lovells International LLP has represented a victim of human trafficking who was abused in France. The team has represented the client at all stages of the French court system. The appeal before the Cour de cassation was presented by the firm Spinosi, advocate before the Conseil d’Etat and the Cour de cassation.

On 4 April, the Cour de cassation has ruled entirely in our client’s favour and reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision against them. Originally, the Court of Appeals had held that there was no proof that the abuse had happened in France, because the client had filed a police report on their escape in the UK and no police report was made in France.  The Cour de cassation has ruled that it would be disproportionate to ask human trafficking victims to bear the burden of proof, or to file a criminal complaint, in the jurisdiction in which they were trafficked, as a prerequisite for compensation. The Court has stated that placing such a burden on victims of human trafficking would violate key provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, and relied also on the work of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings set up by the Council of Europe (GRETA), and decisions of the European Court of Justice. The victim should thus able to rely in France on a criminal complaint filed in the UK. This sets a historic precedent for victims of human trafficking in France and, given the reliance on the ECHR, beyond.

The case will now be remitted to the Paris Court of Appeal.

Patrice Spinosi said, “This decision demonstrates the commitment of the Cour de cassation to guarantee the widest protection to victims of trafficking in human beings and, in particular, forced sex work, in accordance with the requirements of European law, regardless of the country in which they have filed a complaint.”

Thomas Kendra, Hogan Lovells Partner, noted, “We are proud to support victims of trafficking on a pro bono basis, and we hope that this judgment will have a positive impact for those suffering similar violations of their human rights. This decision by the Supreme Court follows a victory in another case at the Paris Court of Appeals last year, and, combined, these decisions are a considerable step forward in helping victims of abuse to claim compensation.”

The Hogan Lovells team was led by Thomas Kendra (partner), Lucas Aubry (senior associate), Lédéa Sawadogo-Lewis (senior business lawyer) and Gauthier Vannieuwenhuyse in Paris, supported by Yasmin Waljee (partner) and Rhian Lewis (senior associate) in London. The same Paris team won the overall pro bono prize at the Paris Bar in October for their continued work in this field. 

SPINOSI’s team was led by Patrice Spinosi (partner) and included Nicolas Hervieu (of counsel) and Camille Bisbarre (senior associate).