In Brief

British trafficking victim suing Priti Patel over alleged ‘abuse of personal data’

Lawyers argue Home Office breached human rights of ‘extremely vulnerable’ woman

A British victim of of sex abuse and drug trafficking is bringing a case against Home Secretary Priti Patel, arguing that her department “unlawfully accessed personal information including details of her intimate thoughts”.

The woman cannot be identified, but “is currently living in a safe house, assisted round the clock by support workers” due to a combination of learning difficulties and mental health problems, The Guardian reports.

The paper reports that she was the victim of drugging, abuse and was “trafficked on a number of occasions for the purposes of sexual exploitation and drug trafficking”, the paper adds. She has “suffered extensive sexual and physical abuse”, and has been said by the Home Office to be a “serial victim of modern-day slavery”.

Lawyers for the woman claim that “sensitive information” about her, collected and stored on a database operated by the Salvation Army, was accessed by the Home Office, despite being “considered irrelevant to her trafficking case”.

The Home Office says that while it is unable to directly access the database, it can get data via the Salvation Army. The charity told The Guardian that “the Home Office owns the information and so it is obliged to disclose it under the terms of its contract”.

Patel last week promised “sweeping reforms” to Home Office culture, following condemnation over the Windrush scandal which saw people wrongly deported, the BBC says.

The new legal action also comes a year after the Salvation Army was revealed to have allowed immigration officers to “infiltrate refugee centres for the homeless in order to gather information used by immigration enforcement”.

Speaking to political news site Left Foot Forward, director of advocacy at the Refugee Council Dr Lisa Doyle said at the time that “homelessness charities and shelters must remain the safe places for vulnerable people they are designed to be”. 

“Home Office processes should remain entirely separate from this,” Doyle added.

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