The Modern Slavery Act 2015 consolidated several pieces of legislation relating to slavery and trafficking offences into two main offences and raised the maximum sentence to life imprisonment:

Section 1 - Slavery, Servitude and Forced or Compulsory Labour - this is defined as 'where a person holds another person in conditions of slavery or servitude or requires another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and that person knows, or ought to know, that the other person is being held as such'. This includes any work or service which is extracted from a victim under threat or menace or deception.

Section 2 - Human Trafficking - this is defined as 'where a person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person with a view to that person being exploited'. The act now provides a single offence of Human Trafficking, covering sexual and non-sexual exploitation. This involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of victims for the purposes of exploitation; either with or without the victim’s consent.

Section 3 – Meaning of Exploitation – the act defines exploitation as

  • Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour

  • Sexual exploitation

  • Removal of organs etc.

  • Securing services etc. by force, threats or deception

  • Securing services etc. from children and vulnerable persons

Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act

Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act provides a statutory defence to victims of modern slavery who have committed a crime themselves, as a result of having been a victim. It does not extend to more serious offences such as rape or murder. Offences to which the Section 45 defence may be applied include drug dealing, cannabis cultivation, shop lifting, benefit fraud, pick pocketing and begging.

Note - Human trafficking is not the same a people smuggling

Human trafficking should not be confused with human smuggling (also called people smuggling), which occurs when an individual seeks the help of a facilitator to enter the UK illegally, and the relationship between both parties ends once the transaction ends. Many of those who enter the UK illegally do so by this route. Human smuggling is not a form of modern slavery. The purpose of human smuggling is to move a person across a border illegally, and it is regarded as a violation of state sovereignty. The purpose of modern slavery is to exploit the victim for gain and is regarded as a violation of that person’s freedom.

Trafficking victims may indeed start out believing that they are being smuggled, will have control over how their debt is repaid and will be free to go about their business once the agreed fee has been settled. However, some may well end up in a potentially exploitative situation, where they are debt bonded and forced to work to pay off their ‘debts’, which in many cases are increased by their trafficker over time to retain control over them. This is where the people smuggling then develops into a form of Modern Slavery.

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About Us


This is the website of the modern slavery police transformation programme.  We work to support police officers, police staff and law enforcement partners to lead the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking. 

Our aim is to help to deliver a consistent response to protecting victims and targeting offenders - and to work with partners to ultimately help prevent exploitation from having a place in our society.

Contact Us


You can contact the Modern Slavery Police Transformation programme by email at Modern Slavery

Alternatively colleagues in UK law enforcement can visit the modern slavery community on POLKA.

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