Greetings from The Slave Detective and a Happy 2014.
Is 2014 a year to be looking forward to?
Human Trafficking is certainly a much higher ‘News Worthy’ topic with many articles being written about it.
The UK Government seem to be making the right noises proposing new laws and higher punishment.
What is the real story though?
As usual I’m in a pretty good position to ‘Lift The Stone’ myself.
(The banner used in by the UK in 2005/6 when I first found myself floundering in the topic of Human Trafficking.)
On Monday 16th December the Home Secretary, Theresa May launched the draft Modern Slavery Bill in the House of Commons. This coincided with the publication of a review on Human Trafficking which has been undertaken by Frank Field MP.
They came out at the same time and many could be forgiven that they were the same piece of work.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I attended the ‘Trafficking Law and Policy Forum’ which reviewed both pieces of work.
I was struck how far ‘off base’ the Modern Slavery Bill appeared to be. It looked as though the current legislation (which is actually quite workable already) had been copied and pasted onto the document.
The press focused on one part of The Bill, the increase on the sentencing strength for Modern Slavery offences from 14years to life imprisonment, “ensuring that perpetrators pay for their crimes.”
I’m not sure if this is a red herring as obviously the most serious offence, those were the victim was raped, already carry life sentences!
There are other worrying parts of the Bill.
My main concern was the creation of an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
For the first time, we will have a senior figure dedicated to the UK’s fight against modern slavery. The Commissioner will focus on strengthening law enforcement efforts in the UK.
Thus creating another layer of unwanted bureaucracy similar to the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) who are a complete waste of time and money.
Cash is being taken away from ‘the front line’ to create these posts.
The cost of this person is more than the entire budget of The Human Trafficking Team, which was the only dedicated Trafficking Team in The UK and disbanded in 2010 because of cost.
What is the chance of an ‘Independent Role’ being created?
This tactic failed with the creating of a ‘Drugs Czar’ and will not solve the problem that we have:-
The lack of dedicated resources to deal with The Traffickers.
Also the Bill wants to introduce Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders (STPOs) and Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders (STROs).
“The nature of modern slavery is so complex that it requires bespoke orders to target effectively the behaviour of individuals and organised criminals operating in this space.”
Once again who will Police these? The are basically Anti Social Behaviour Orders handed out by courts to persons to tell them to stop their bad behaviour!
Shouldn’t we be arresting Human Traffickers not watering the legislation down.
I have many times criticised the tactic of prosecuting Sex Traffickers with the Offence of ‘Controlling Prostitution.’
An easier offence to prove which a much lesser punishment. It also says to a trafficked Survivor you are not a victim of trafficking but a Prostitute!
I do not believe this is the message the Police should be giving out. It is Policing Human Trafficking on the cheap and I belive these new ‘Orders’ are exactly the same. A note from a Court saying ‘Stop being a naughty person!’
The feeling in the ‘Trafficking Law and Policy Forum’ was this was not a great piece of legislation being pushed through very quickly. History has proved that poorly thought out legislation leads to many more problems than it solves.
The opening remarks in The Bill by Teresa May were also worrying to me.
“For years modern slavery has been associated with immigration crime. I have sought to change this perception. We will all have seen the news recently that three women had been kept imprisoned for 30 years in horrific conditions. That was in London in the 21st Century. And it has no place in modern Britain.”
She is quite right when she says it has no place in modern Britain but I consider her choice of words, in an ongoing case which has yet to be heard in a court of law, not wise.
I believe there is a lot more to this case than Human Trafficking. Very little to do with immigration.
I may have to eat my words but I consider the press coverage and comments made by Police in this matter unconstructive and ‘The Cart put very much in front of the Horse!’
Interviews had yet to be done with the victims before this case was ‘Splashed‘ and sensationalized. Teresa Mays reference to it only attempts to use this all the more.
It seemed that both The Police and the NGO were claiming this as their great success. I hope they are right and the case is properly prosecuted. I for one have my doubts about the outcome.
Lets turn to the report “Establishing Britain as a world leader in the fight against modern slavery” the ‘Report of the Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review’ by Baroness Butler-Sloss, Frank Field MP (Chair) and Sir John Randall MP.
This report has the opportunity to correct the ‘Bill’ and has some very eminent advisors on it.
It is far more ‘victim focused’ which was always the watch word of my Human Trafficking Team.
I will watch this space and hope that this isn’t just ‘lip service’ to hide behind while the limp Bill is being published.
Good luck to all involved.
This is Part One of my ‘Welcome to a new Era’.
Part 2 to follow.