Home Secretary Amber Rudd has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to stamp out modern slavery by announcing £8.5 million of funding that will help law enforcement agencies in tackling this horrendous form of criminality.
Granted until 2018-2019 following a bid made to the Police Transformation Fund, the funding will improve the country’s enforcement response to modern slavery by providing high quality intelligence and analysis designed to assess the threat at both a national and regional level, and at the same time engender an improved operational response throughout the investigative process.
Led by Devon and Cornwall Police, the national effort will provide over 50 additional analysts, specialists and investigators who will assist the police in England and Wales to “transform” the response to this complex crime.
The Home Secretary stated: “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime which destroys the lives of the most vulnerable in our society. This Government has taken world-leading action to tackle it by strengthening the law enforcement response and increasing support and protection for victims, but we recognise that we must do even more. That’s why I’m announcing a significant investment that will help our law enforcement agencies bring the perpetrators of this intolerable criminality to justice. Our message to slave-drivers and traffickers is clear: we are coming to get you and you have absolutely nowhere to hide.”
The Conservative Government’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 gave law enforcement new powers to tackle these crimes, introduced tougher sentences and increased protection for victims. The number of prosecutions and convictions have risen, with 289 modern slavery offences prosecuted in England and Wales in 2015. Record numbers of victims are also now coming forward to ask for help.
This new injection of Government investment is designed to address some of the areas for improvement highlighted by both the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and Caroline Haughey in their recent reports.
Devon and Cornwall Police Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, the national policing lead on modern slavery, organised immigration crime and migration matters, explained: “I share the Home Secretary’s unequivocal commitment to further improving the UK’s response to modern slavery. Police have invested in specialist investigators, developed a cross-country network, trained officers and led successful operations to tackle trafficking and the exploitation of people for profit. This significant financial investment from the Police Transformation Fund enables us to do even more. We will use the funding to bring in more specialist officers, improve our intelligence on traffickers and run more proactive operations that bring criminals to justice while at the same time protecting victims.”
The £8.5 million investment is the latest Government action focused on improving the operational response. In July, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she will chair a Modern Slavery Task Force focusing on the law enforcement response, while the Home Secretary instructed Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to carry out a detailed inspection of the police response. This process is set to begin later on this year.