Published Friday, 01 June 2012
The woman came here with her child in 2008 to be with her partner. (© UTV)
The woman, identified only as W, claims she arrived in Northern Ireland after being moved out of her native country by Snakehead gang members.
Her original High Court case was dismissed due to a lack of jurisdiction to deal with issues involving an unincorporated international treaty.
However, judicial review proceedings were referred back to the judge to assess whether the State breached her right to freedom from slavery and forced labour under European law.
W challenged a decision, taken in accordance with National Referral Mechanism (NRM) policy, to reject a claim that she was trafficked into the UK.
She had been arrested in Northern Ireland on suspicion of cannabis production, but charges against her were later dropped.
According to her account Snakeheads helped her get out of China at the age of 19 in 2002.
It was claimed that she was moved around different countries in Africa, cooking and cleaning for prostitutes in brothels where men guarded the doors.
She was then allegedly moved around four different brothels before being released in December 2005 - 15 months beyond the two years she agreed to work to pay off her debt.
She came to Northern Ireland with her child in 2008 to join her partner.
W alleged that the NRM policy breached Article 4 obligations of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide an effective means of identifying trafficking victims.
In his judgment Mr Justice Treacy clarified the State's obligations to prevent the crime, protect victims and punish those responsible.
He held that the State would not be in breach of its obligations "if there is a spectrum of safeguards in place which are adequate to ensure practical and effective protections of victims' rights."
The judge stressed that this should include criminal, regulatory and immigration efforts.
In adopting the NRM policy in W's case there had been no breach, he concluded.
He said: "The NRM policy represents a comprehensive means to protect the rights of victims.
"It would be an inappropriate use of funds and resources to provide unnecessary protections to those who are no longer in danger."
Mr Justice Treacy ruled that W is not deprived of a general victim status, but only of the particular type of status required to obtain access to special rights.