UK: ‘Modern Slavery’ Bill to Tighten Laws on Human Trafficking

By Andrew Sparrow for The Guardian, on August 25, 2013—
“A “modern slavery” bill that tightens the laws on human trafficking will be introduced in an attempt to eradicate an “evil in our midst”, Theresa May has announced.

Home secretary Theresa May
Theresa May said it was ‘scarcely believable that there is slavery in Britain’ but that ‘in 2013 there are people in this country forced to exist in appalling conditions and often against their will’. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA


The home secretary said that prosecution rates for human trafficking were still “shockingly low” across Europe and that an overhaul of the law was needed as there was still some uncertainty over which agencies should be tackling the problem.

The bill, which will be introduced before the current session of parliament ends next spring, will consolidate and toughen existing anti-trafficking legislation.

New trafficking prevention orders, modelled on sexual offence prevention orders, will be introduced, allowing the courts to impose restrictions on the ability of offenders to own a company, visit certain areas or work with women or young children after their release. May believes these are necessary because people convicted of trafficking often return to the trade after their release from jail.

A “modern slavery commissioner” will be appointed to ensure that the government and law enforcement agencies are tackling the problem vigorously.

It is also possible that the bill could establish new classes of crime aggravated by a link to human trafficking. This would allow higher penalties to be imposed for offences involving, for example, drugs or prostitution, if they were part of a trafficking operation.

May, writing in the Sunday Times, said she wanted the new National Crime Agency and all English and Welsh police forces to make the issue a top priority.

“It is scarcely believable that there is slavery in Britain, yet the harsh reality is that in 2013 there are people in this country forced to exist in appalling conditions and often against their will,” she wrote.

“Trafficking prevention orders will ensure that someone released from a sentence for a human trafficking offence cannot simply go back to being a gangmaster.”

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: “Labour have been calling for stronger action against human trafficking since 2010 and if the government are finally taking this issue seriously then that is to be welcomed. Modern-day slavery is an appalling crime that destroys lives.

“Stronger action against traffickers is welcome. But the proposals also need to include stronger action and enforcement against gangmasters and employers, and more support for trafficked victims, especially children and young people.

“Considerable concerns have been raised about trafficked children and young people ending up in children’s homes and then going missing and being trafficked again.

“Ministers also need to address trafficking within Britain as well as across borders. This legislation is an important opportunity that must not be missed.””

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