updated on 10 August 2018
The government has asked victims of the Windrush scandal to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in return for fast-tracking their compensation claims, in the latest high-profile example of the controversial practice.
Despite Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s promise to MPs that Windrush victims would not be prevented from speaking out about their ordeals, The Independent has revealed that at least one person to have suffered harm as a result of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy has had an NDA imposed on them.
NDAs are used to buy the silence of victims to stop embarrassing revelations about an individual or organisation entering the public domain. The ethics of this practice are dubious but it has become widespread in recent years – and has been used to gag women lawyers who are victims of workplace sexual harassment.
The Law Society has warned that members of the Windrush generation who attempt to reach an agreement with the government without first receiving independent legal advice “could be denied justice”.
Christina Blacklaws, the Law Society president, said: “We see no reason why this process should not be handled transparently. Anyone affected by the Windrush crisis should get independent legal advice so they know their rights and understand clearly what they need to do to claim compensation if they have suffered as a result of home office errors.”
David Lammy, the Tottenham MP whose parents are members of the Windrush generation, said: “It is totally unacceptable to gag vulnerable citizens in this way. Windrush victims have the right to fair compensation at the same time as the right to speak out. Forcing victims to sign non-disclosure agreements contradicts Sajid Javid’s statement and is an appallingly cynical way to handle the crisis.”