Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor
A deaf and mute girl treated as a virtual slave and kept in a cellar after being trafficked into Britain has been awarded more than £100,000 from her wealthy tormentors for “forced labour” after a landmark court case.
The victim was also repeatedly raped by Ilyas Ashar, 85, who along with his wife, Tallat, 69, subjected her to a life of “misery and degradation” from the moment she was brought from Pakistan as a 10-year-old girl in June 2000.
The victim, who is profoundly deaf and cannot speak, was beaten and forced to sleep and work in the cellar of the millionaire couple’s five-bed family home in Cromwell Road, Eccles in Salford.
She was forced to be at the wealthy elderly couple’s “beck and call” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
They were both convicted of a series of offences relating to the girl in October 2013 and are serving jail sentences.
A lengthy post-trial Proceeds of Crime hearing at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester concluded today.
The Ashars, who have assets worth more than £1 million, were ordered to pay the girl £101,300.72 under a compensation order made by Judge Peter Lakin for the forced labour of their victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
It is understood to be the first time in the UK proceeds of crime legislation has been used to compensate a victim of human trafficking for forced labour.
The payment was calculated on the basis of what she would have been paid under minimum wage legislation for working for the Ashars for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, from 2003 with only 10 days off.
The couple were also ordered to pay back £41,968 in benefits they claimed for her, almost £20,000 in a bank account in her name she had no access to and £321,957 in court costs – after the couple fought the case tooth and nail – and unsuccessfully took the case to the Court of Appeal.
Judge Lakin said the proceedings, involving three trials, were “unduly protracted” because of the Ashars, who also sacked their legal team at the final hearing in a “crude and cynical manoeuvre” to derail proceedings.
The couple must now hand over to the authorities just over £485,000.
After they were convicted at the earlier trial, Judge Lakin described the pair as “deeply unpleasant, highly manipulative and dishonest people” who did not treat the girl as a human being and had shown no remorse.
He added: “You exploited her physically, you exploited her mentally and you exploited her economically.”
The girl spent 34 days in total being cross-examined by the Ashars’ lawyers during legal proceedings.
At the trial, the court heard that for almost a decade the victim had to work for the Ashars, who are understood to have a number of business interests and rental properties.
Though her exact age is not known, the girl was also sexually abused from pre-puberty by Ilyas Ashar.
She was never given any schooling and could not read or write, except for being taught to sign her name by the Ashars so they could claim benefits on her behalf and keep the money.
After coming to the UK, despite her apparent young age, as a domestic servant she was allowed to remain on an annual basis on condition that she did not make a claim on public funds.
But by July 2005 she was given leave to remain indefinitely and within two weeks the Ashars began claiming housing, council tax and income support for the girl.
When police and local trading standards raided the Ashar family home on the morning of June 8 2009, officers were “shocked” to discover the girl asleep in the cold and dark cellar.
They noted something was “amiss” when she got up, went upstairs and, instead of sitting on a chair in the kitchen, sat on a plastic stool.
One officer likened her behaviour to that of an “animal” not allowed to sit on the furniture and an indication of her status in the house.
She was taken from the house and is now doing well with the help of social services.
Ilyas Ashar was found guilty of 13 charges of raping the girl after the trial.
He had also been convicted at an earlier trial of two counts of trafficking a person into the UK for exploitation, two counts of furnishing false information to obtain a benefit and one of permitting furnishing of false information to obtain a benefit.
Tallat Ashar was jailed for five years for two counts of trafficking a person into the UK for exploitation and four counts of furnishing false information to obtain a benefit.
Ilyas Ashar was sentenced to 13 years in prison, subsequently raised to 15 years by the Court of Appeal who ruled the original sentence was “unduly lenient”.
Tallat Ashar wasa jailed for five years, raised to six years by the same court.
Their daughter, Faaiza Ashar, 46, was found guilty at trial of two counts of furnishing false information to obtain a benefit and one count of permitting furnishing of false information to obtain a benefit. She was given a 12 month community order with 300 hours of unpaid work.
Salford divisional commander Chief Superintendent Mary Doyle, said: “Today’s result is a landmark case for both GMP and for victims of trafficking everywhere.
“The crimes of the Ashars are well-documented and, quite rightly, people continue to share a sense of disbelief at the prolonged cruelty they inflicted on their young victim.
“However, inspired by her strength and courage in the face of overwhelming obstacles, officers have worked tirelessly to ensure justice is done in the full sense of the word.
“Our financial investigators delved deeply into the Ashars financial affairs and used existing legislation to great effect, ensuring they can now pay their debt.
“The money will in no way make up for what she went through over a number of years, but it will help her move on with her life and continue her inspiring recovery from these awful events.
“I believe today’s outcome also gives hope to any victim of trafficking. It reminds us that there are people out there willing to bring people to this country purely to be exploited but, with the correct use of the law, the perpetrators can be brought fully to justice.
“This case has come just as GMP is preparing for a week of action in the lead up to National Anti-Slavery Day on Saturday 18 October 2014, which is run by the Human Trafficking Foundation.
“Throughout the week officers will be targeting those areas and business premises seen to be at risk of both sex and labour exploitation, with a series of harm reduction visits. They will also be working with hotels around the airport and Manchester City Centre to raise awareness with staff of how to spot victims of trafficking.
“If anyone suspects an adult or child in Salford is being abused they can contact Adult Safeguarding on 0161 9096517 or Greater Manchester Police on 101. More information on safeguarding adults is available at www.salford.gov.uk.adultabuse.htm.”
Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor