The number of police investigations involving modern slavery has more than doubled over the last year (to April 2019) and has grown by more than 350% since April 2017 says the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Programme in its’ latest annual report.
UK police forces are (in April 2019) leading at least 1370 live investigations involving slavery or servitude, forced or compulsory labour or human trafficking. These are cases where offenders control and exploit adults and/or children for their own, typically, financial gain. In total, the investigations involve more than 2,200 potential victims and over 1,800 potential offenders. Around 35% of the cases may involve children as victims.
In parallel with the release of the Modern Slavery Police Transformation annual report, the Home Office has also confirmed a further 12 month investment, until the end of March 2020, to enable to the Programme to continue. These resources will continue to provide support for police forces and other agencies in further developing their response to modern slavery investigations. Alongside a greater focus being placed on development of targeted intelligence and prevention activity, the Programme will also work with police forces and other agencies to develop strategic responses to the ways in which modern slavery can cause harm to children and young people.
For the National Police Chief Council, Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, the portfolio lead for Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime, said: “Whilst our annual report focuses on supporting the policing response to modern slavery, it also reflects the growing determination of a range of partners to stop the UK from becoming a place where offenders think that can get away with harming other people this way.
“The last two years have seen unparalleled advances in the law enforcement response to the thousands of situations up and down the country where vulnerable people can be cruelly exploited. This is recognised by the significant growth in investigations now being identified by policing as having connections to modern slavery. But there is much more to do. In particular, I am increasingly concerned by levels of child exploitation that police forces are uncovering as we investigate these cases further.
“What’s very important is that this is a crime where everyone can make a difference by reporting concerns about what they see in their communities, and by thinking hard about the consumer choices we all make in our everyday lives”, added Chief Constable Sawyer.
Responding to the annual report, Victoria Atkins, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability said: “There has been a real sea change in the police response to modern slavery over the last two years with greater awareness and many more operations across the country. There is real sense now that modern slavery and exploitation is a priority for policing and that there’s a willingness to lift the stone and commit to tackling this crime. The Modern Slavery Police Transformation Programme has been a cornerstone of this change.
“The Programme has already helped to deliver improvements, not just in policing and law enforcement, but across the system more broadly. This includes the significant impact that has been made at a national and local level through the work of the Programme’s regional teams” she added.
As the national PCC lead on modern slavery and human trafficking, the PCC for West Yorkshire, Mark Burns-Williamson said: “As a police and crime commissioner, I can see at first-hand what impact the focus of this Programme is making on policing. There is no doubt that a significant contribution has already been made in helping police forces respond to the priority placed on tackling this form of exploitation.
At a practical level the regional coordination and support available, the training and the awareness raising activity and the investigative guidance provided are all attracting the attention of PCCs and police forces. It means the building blocks are in place to help embed greater consistency in the policing response.
The Programme shows us that sophisticated investigative and case management skills are vital to positive victim and prosecution outcomes in modern slavery. Trained officers need to be available locally to respond. That’s why through the National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network (NATMSN), I encourage PCCs to specifically identify modern slavery within their police and crime plans as a way to ensure that these skills are developed and properly targeted.
Partnerships are also needed to support victims who, for a variety of reasons, may not able to engage with the police. This can be as result of the trauma they have suffered, suspicion of the authorities or fear of retribution. Specialist victim support arrangements, often provided through NGOs and third sector agencies, have been shown to work here. This is a further initiative that the Programme has championed and that, as PCCs, we must continue to support”, added Mr Burns-Williamson.
For the modern slavery charity, Unseen, CEO Andrew Wallis said: “We have been working on modern slavery in the UK for the past decade, and the impact this Programme has made on the issue since launch has been palpable, as reflected in this annual report. Unseen is proud to partner with Modern Slavery Police Transformation Programme on a number of projects described in this report and we look forward to working together further in the fight to end this crime forever”.
Partner updates: In addition to reporting the activities of the Programme and of PCCs, the annual report includes further updates on efforts to tackle modern slavery by partner agencies including; Border Force, the Crown Prosecution Service, The Department for Work and Pensions, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, HM Revenue & Customs, Immigration Enforcement and the National Crime Agency. These updates highlight the growing levels of collaboration taking place as agencies work together the target and pursue offenders, and to support victims who have been trapped in situations of exploitation.
Click on the document link to see a PDF copy of our 2018/19 Annual report