Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, NPCC lead on modern slavery

The modern slavery police transformation programme has provided the foundation for police forces to improve their response to modern slavery, and in doing so, has also influenced system-wide changes in the UK’s domestic response to this threat.

Through collaboration with partners across the law enforcement, including every police force across the country, we have developed a much greater understanding of the spectrum of offences that relate to modern slavery. We have learnt more about the victims, the offenders, and the conditions of vulnerability that enable these types of exploitation to occur. Investigators, analysts, and other specialists have received bespoke training to enable them to more effectively deal with these complex crimes. The scope, pace, and effectiveness of our operational activity has improved enabling police to pursue a significant increase in the number of live modern slavery investigations. 

We have also worked closely with PCCs, with government at a policy level and more locally by strengthening the local network of anti-slavery partnerships, to help raise awareness of modern slavery and to encourage preventative action. Practitioners have also worked to escalate the very real challenges that exist within the victim support system.

My sense is that public awareness of modern slavery continues to grow though we are still some way off the point where everything that the public sees is consistently reported to us. As awareness grows, then so will the demand for a policing response.  Through the transformation programme we have sought to ensure officers are supported in this work by providing access to guidance, lessons learnt and other support materials. In doing so I believe we have shown that establishing centres of knowledge and expertise can work relatively quickly to improve the overall law enforcement response.

The modern slavery programme was initially funded for two years because a time-limited funding stream was all that was available when the programme was first commissioned. At the time, we knew less about the scale and complexity of the issue and needed to take initial exploratory steps to find out more. So I am delighted to have now had confirmation of additional funding to all allow the Programme to continue its work to March 2020.

Whilst we cannot yet say that policing is perfectly consistent in its modern slavery response, we can reflect that we are now far ahead of where we were two years ago. Some forces are more sophisticated than others but all have taken steps to make significant improvements. However, there will always be some that are further ahead and so a key role of the MSPTU is to ensure that no-one falls behind within the law enforcement family. Together, and in working with a whole range of partners, we have succeeded in supporting a series of initiatives that are helping to improve the overall system response to modern slavery. With more time there is significantly more we can do though we should also positively recognise the progress made to date.


Latest activity snapshot up to April 2019

Continuing increase in police-led investigations:

In April 2019 there were at least 1370 live modern slavery policing operations in the UK – more than double the number of operations reported a year before. This is more than seven times the number of cases police were investigating in December 2016 (when recording of the number of live investigations began). Current cases were estimated to involve over 2200 victims and over 1800 suspects. Sexual exploitation was the single biggest single exploitation type under investigation.

More victims protected:

The number of potential victims protected and detected as a result of police activity continues to increase. Overall, the number of NRM and DTN referrals received by competent authorities continues to grow with greater public awareness and activity from partner agencies and in particular, local authorities. (NRM and DTN referrals made by police and other "first responder" organisations indicate potential victims of modern slavery offences).

Specialist training delivered:

Since 2017, around 6,200 specialist modern slavery training days have been delivered by the programme to more than 4000 police officers and staff. All forces in England and Wales have participated. The delivery of specialist training activity continues.

Forces are also able to increasingly deliver the own activity with a network of more than 120 trainers having been equipped to support the delivery of general awareness training locally.

More than 1200 investigators equipped with specialist investigation skills:

Over 750 specialist investigators have received specific training as part of a four day course on how to run complex modern slavery investigations. A further 490 lead investigators and other practitioners have also received training on covert tactics, victim management and ABE in modern slavery cases.

575 investigators trained in ABE interviewing skills for modern slavery cases

A series of CPD events provided additional input for officers in the use of ABE interview techniques in modern slavery cases, specifically in understanding the needs and vulnerabilities of MSHT victims.

More than 800 intel analysts and research staff received specialist CPD

Analyst and research staff working for police and other law enforcement agencies nationwide have received specialist training, via a national conference and at 26 one-day CPD events, on the research techniques needed to support the prevention, intelligence and investigation work needed to tackle modern slavery.

Training materials accredited:

Awareness and specialist investigation training materials have been accredited by the College of Police and are now available across UK law enforcement. Forces are now increasingly leading in the local delivery of modern slavery training.

Supporting effective prosecution:

Police forces increasingly seek earlier engagement and closer collaboration with the Crown Prosecution Service in the planning and development of complex modern slavery investigations. Additionally, more than three quarters of police forces in England and Wales have participated in case file reviews to gather and share best practice in the detection and preparation of effective prosecutions under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. This programme of review and continuing improvement is available to all forces.

Partner & practitioner networks engaged

Seven major partnership and practitioner events have been held attended by more than 900 representatives of police, UK and overseas law enforcement, OPPCs, government agencies, crime registrars, local authorities, NGOs, community action groups and other partners – all focussing on working together to defeat 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.