New measures to tackle human trafficking

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A new statutory aggravation is to be introduced to make the perpetrators of human trafficking easier to prosecute, the Scottish Government announced today.

The move is one of a series of measures agreed at a summit on human trafficking, hosted today by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Other actions agreed at the summit include raising awareness and improving training among frontline professionals, putting measures in place to improve care and support for adult and child victims and putting in place steps to ensure robust data collection and analysis.

The summit, taking place on European anti-slavery day, brought together senior representatives of organisations that have a clear role in tackling trafficking and supporting victims of trafficking, including representatives from the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive.

Those attending included the chief constable of the new Police Service of Scotland Stephen House, the Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People Tam Baillie as well as representatives from the Crown Office, COSLA, Migrant Help, Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Scottish Trades Union Congress and the UK Human Trafficking Centre.

The summit coincides with the publication of the Inter-departmental Ministerial Group Report on Trafficking. This provides an assessment of human trafficking in the UK and the UK’s response towards combating the crime. It shows that 93 potential victims of trafficking were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in 2011. The NRM is a multi-agency framework which allows a variety of agencies to contribute towards identifying, protecting and supporting potential trafficking victims. Although the source countries can vary, in 2011, the majority of victims of trafficking recovered in Scotland came from Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The report also provides a response to the recommendations in various anti-trafficking reports and highlights areas to focus on to improve its approach.

At the summit it was agreed that a statutory human trafficking criminal aggravation will be introduced. This will mean that existing criminal offences will be able to be ‘aggravated’ in future if it can be proved that the underlying offence was committed in connection with human trafficking

Also published today is Scottish Government commissioned research on the care and support needs of victims of human trafficking.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:

“This summit today has given us the opportunity to bring together all the organisations with a clear role in enforcing the law, raising awareness with frontline staff or delivering care and support to victims. I am very pleased that so many different organisations have come together to come up with a range of actions we can take to continue the fight against this abhorrent crime.

“We want to send out the message that Scotland is closed for business to traffickers. We will do everything in our power to crack down on those who exploit people for forced labour, sex or domestic servitude and making trafficking easier to prosecute will give our law enforcement agencies a powerful new tool in their armoury.

“The nature of this crime is such that no one country or agency acting on its own can tackle it effectively. The key to eradicating it is partnership working – whether that is working at a local level or working with international partners to provide a solution. It is what happens on the ground that makes a difference to the individuals involved, be they victims or traffickers themselves. That is why we will continue to encourage and assist the relevant agencies in the work that they do.”

Likening the issue to modern slavery, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC added:

“The Crown is working with law enforcement to combat the scourge of human trafficking.  Trafficking in human beings, often for sexual exploitation, is akin to slavery.  This is why we have developed specialist prosecutors in this area who stand ready to deal with such cases robustly whilst dealing with the victims sensitively.”

Welcoming news, Christina McKelvie MSP – co-Convener of the CPG on Human Trafficking said

“I warmly welcome this announcement. The SNP government has shown real leadership in raising awareness and tackling human trafficking, which had long been a neglected issue in Scotland.

“This is a highly complex area, which has proven difficult to prosecute in Scotland. This new legislation will go a long way to ensure that traffickers are punished and their victims are protected.

“I particularly welcome the focus on young people. I’ve previously argued with the UK Government that local authorities and child protection agencies should determine whether a young person is trafficked or not, rather than the discredited UKBA, and the fact that the Children’s Reporter is a first responder is a very welcome step forward.

“Above all, we are sending out the message that Scotland is closed for business to traffickers.”