On Friday, a U.K. high court ordered that four Nigerian ex-slaves be paid £5,000 (about $8,100) each in reparations by police because the force failed to look into their claims.
The court ruled that the women’s human rights were violated due to the police’s “failure to investigate,” the BBC reports.
Previously, the department alleged they were unable to conduct an investigation because the women involved would not cooperate. But the judge ruled they were indeed “ready, willing and able to participate,” but the department “did nothing to commence an effective investigation.”
"The [police] commissioner should not require a court judgment to appreciate the importance of investigating child slavery," Tony Murphy, one of the women’s lawyers, said, reports the Associated Press. "His decision to fight this case sends a dangerous message to officers that combating human trafficking is not a priority for the [police]."
In addition, no one from the Metropolitan Police has since has reached out to apologize, a spokesman for the women’s lawyer said.
The women, who are now in their 20s and won’t be identified for legal purposes, were trafficked to the nation illegally when they were between the ages 11 and 15.
Between the years of 1997 and 2006, the women say they were forced to work in London-area households for free and were abused physically and emotionally by their captors. They also say police failed to investigate their claims for a “significant” amount of time, the BBC reports.
Following the ruling, the police released a statement saying: “It is, of course, a matter of deep regret that the claimants did not receive the levels of service which they expected."