The Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, Scotland’s Lord Advocate and the Public Prosecutor for Northern Ireland have signed up to an Action Plan committing their respective organisations to work together in order to react to the changing nature of human trafficking around the world. The Director of Public Prosecutions for Ireland also took part in the discussions. The news comes as the latest Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) figures show that the number of human trafficking prosecutions in England and Wales has increased to reach its highest-ever total.
The agreed commitments set out the ways in which the three organisations will work closely together in order to disrupt networks, prosecute human traffickers and safeguard victims’ rights within the criminal justice process.
These include working closely with the police service in order to ensure that the strongest possible cases are prepared and prosecuted, reviewing and updating the training of staff who investigate and prosecute trafficking and ensuring that the rights of victims, witnesses and the potential victims of human trafficking are upheld.
Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, explained: “Human trafficking and slavery are abhorrent crimes. The profile of trafficking continues to change. Signing up to these commitments means that we can work more effectively across Britain in order to tackle these crimes. We’re fully committed to working with our prosecuting partners and police forces both at home and abroad in order to bring the strongest possible cases against those who seek to traffic and enslave.”
Saunders continued: “We must adapt to meet that challenge. We’ve seen an increase in trafficking people for the purpose of sham marriages, and it’s also now the case that the number of victims, many of whom are men trafficked to be labourers or domestic workers, is exceeding those for sexual exploitation. We will continue to develop bespoke training for police officers and prosecutors alike. We absolutely must share our experiences and learn from each other in terms of how best to prosecute these cases.”
In addition, Saunders said: “Our focus on these crimes is paying dividends. This year, we’re already on track for more people-facing trafficking charges in England and Wales than ever before. We’ve also begun to use new powers such as Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders. These impose far-reaching and extra territorial restrictions on the actions of those who’ve been convicted of trafficking. We’re also working with national and international partners in priority locations within Europe and Africa as part of the UK’s efforts to disrupt people smuggling and trafficking networks at their source or in transit.”
Trafficking offences prosecuted
Month-on-month, the number of defendants being taken to court for trafficking offences is higher than ever before. 183 people were taken to court for trafficking offences between April 2015 and December 2015, while 187 individuals were taken to court for trafficking offences during the whole of 2014-2015.
In 2014, there were 1,139 victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, while victims of labour exploitation (1,017) and domestic servitude (278) totalled 1,295 in combination. In April to June 2015, the labour exploitation figure was 253 and that for sexual exploitation 248. The domestic servitude total was 115.
There have been 12 Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders put in place since they came into force in July 2015.
The Modern Slavery Act came into force on 31 July last year. The Act introduced new powers which will help police officers in preventing or prohibiting convicted defendants from activities which enable them to commit offences of human trafficking or slavery and forced labour.
The new powers will also assist in restricting the activities of those who’ve not yet been convicted, but where there’s a risk that someone may commit an offence. These new orders are called Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders and Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders – otherwise known as STPOs and STROs.
STPOs are civil orders which the court can impose if a defendant has been convicted of a trafficking or slavery offence and the court is satisfied that there’s a risk the defendant may commit further offences (and it’s therefore necessary to protect others from harm).
Any breach of STPOs aand STROs is an offence punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
Prevention Orders can be applied for by the prosecutor on conviction as part of the sentence in order to protect members of the public by preventing or restricting a given defendant’s activities.