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12/12/14 08:05

Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill published

Traffickers to face life imprisonment under new proposals.

The Scottish Government has today introduced a Bill which will introduce a specific law to combat human trafficking and exploitation for the very first time in Scotland.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill will clarify and strengthen criminal law by introducing a new single human trafficking offence and increasing the maximum penalty for offenders to life imprisonment.

The proposals are designed to give Scotland’s law enforcement agencies greater tools in their armoury to bring those responsible for human trafficking and exploitation to justice as well as guaranteeing victims support.

It will mean that, for the very first time, there will be legislation in Scotland focusing specifically on human trafficking and exploitation through slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

When passed, the Bill will also:

  • give adult victims of trafficking equivalent rights to access immediate support and assistance as child victims already have;
  • ensure guidance for prosecutors in dealing with the victims of trafficking and exploitation who are forced to commit crime as a direct result of their victim status; and
  • require Scottish Ministers to work with other bodies to publish and keep under review a Scottish Anti-Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy.

Speaking as the Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, said:

“Human trafficking is very much a hidden crime which often goes on behind closed doors. While last year the National Crime Agency recorded 55 potential victims from Scotland, we know this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg.

“Victims can face horrendous suffering and there is no place for it in modern society. There is no doubt in my mind that introducing this new legislation is the right thing to do. While the focus of this Bill is very much on the needs of victims, under these proposals those who seek to peddle human misery will also face the toughest possible penalties.

“Previously, criminal law against trafficking was spread across different legislation. For the first time, the Bill will create a new single offence of trafficking for all forms of exploitation for both adults and children and those who seek to exploit others, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

“The proposals are designed to give Scotland’s law enforcement agencies greater tools in their armoury to bring those responsible for human trafficking and exploitation to justice, as well as providing greater support to victims.

“We know that legislation alone will not help to identify potential victims. That’s why we’re combining legislative action through this Bill with the development and implementation of a Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy - building on the work already undertaken to increase public awareness, training for front-line staff and engagement with businesses to help spot the signs of potential trafficking and exploitation. In developing the strategy we will listen and be open to any suggestions.

“Ultimately, this is taking tough action to crack down on those who think they can commit human trafficking, exploit individuals, and better protect and support both adult and child victims.”

Some industries in Scotland, including fishing and agriculture, can be vulnerable to a small minority of criminal employers who exploit or even trafficking workers. As well as force labour, people can be trafficked and exploited for a wide range of purposes, including, domestic servitude, forced marriage, sexual exploitation etc.

David Dickens, Chief Executive of the Fishermen’s Mission, said:

“As a charity dedicated to providing help and support to fishermen and their families in need, the Fishermen’s Mission welcomes any move that seeks to reduce the potential for trafficking or exploitation of fishermen. We see and deal with the results of poor practices and are pleased to see that the issues are been addressed in Scotland”

Robert McCrea, Chief Executive of Migrant Help, added:

“As a charity providing support to potential victims of human trafficking and exploitation we have always been impressed by the commitment demonstrated by the Scottish Government in addressing this abhorrent crime.

The Scottish Government's approach has always been focused on support of victims and their integration or reintegration post care. We believe this should be a vital part of the overarching strategy as it places victims at the heart of the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery and also plays a significant role in reducing the risk of re-trafficking.

“Migrant Help fully supports the Scottish Government's efforts to consolidate these processes into law.”

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said:

“Police Scotland is supportive of the legislative proposals in the new Human Trafficking (Scotland) Bill. This is a positive measure, empowering officers to perform their duties under specific, simplified powers. Investigations will be progressed more practically and effectively, while the inclusion of preventative orders will inhibit traffickers’ ability to continue their criminal activity.

“We particularly welcome the enhanced focus on the needs of victims and the additional support the Bill presents. The non-criminalisation of suspected victims of human trafficking is an area where clearly defined obligations and direction is welcomed and would assist greatly in providing the clarity and confidence required to effectively deal with those circumstances where offending has occurred as a result of their exploitation. Coupled with the intention to set minimum standards of care the bill proposes the best possible outcome for victims.

“The measures proposed, together with the duty to develop an Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy will ensure that victims are offered far better protection and make Scotland a truly hostile environment for traffickers.”

Notes to editors

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill was confirmed in the Scottish Government’s recent Programme for Government.

The development of the Bill was informed by recent reports and inquiries into the nature and extent of trafficking in Scotland including by the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People, and a consultation by Jenny Marra MSP. Organisations represented at the Scottish Government’s Human Trafficking Summit in October 2012 were also invited to suggest ideas for inclusion in the Bill.

Information about the extent of human trafficking in Scotland is collected through the UK-wide National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and the National Crime Agency (NCA) annual assessment of the nature and scale of trafficking. The most recent NCA assessment identified 55 potential victims of trafficking in Scotland in 2013. However, this is thought likely to be a significant under-estimate. Recent Home Office research suggests there could be between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking in the UK..

Under existing children’s legislation, child victims of trafficking already have the right to receive immediate help and support based on their individual needs. Provisions under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, when implemented, will also ensure that children, including the victims of trafficking, have a named person responsible for promoting and safeguarding their safety and wellbeing. Through the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill, adult victims of trafficking will be given the same right as children to receive immediate support and assistance based on an assessment of their needs.

The Scottish Government currently provides direct grant funding of £723,000 a year between two organisations - the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) and Migrant Help - to provide immediate support and assistance to the adult victims of trafficking. The Bill will put the rights of adult victims to receive support and assistance on a statutory basis. Child victims of trafficking already have a statutory right to receive support and protection in line with their assessed needs.