Slavery is as real in the UK in 2015 as it was 200 years ago.

The title of this blog says it all: Slavery is as real in 2015 as it was in 200 years ago. It is a disgrace that in 2015 we have to use the words slavery; as many would believe this term has long been banished. However, Modern Slavery is as real today as it was leading up to the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

If we go back over 200 years to when Lord Grenville made a passionate speech arguing that the slave trade was ‘contrary to the principles of justice, humanity and sound policy’ rings true today as it did when he said it in 1806. However, the sad truth of it is in 2013 ten-thousand to thirteen-thousand people in the UK are trapped in slavery.

Slavery exists today for the very same reasons as before. The driver is high profits, low risk. Forced labour is not only organised crime, but used by regular businesses too. Forced labour is the area of construction, care and hospitality. However, the most common areas for adults is the sex trade, whereas for children is forced labour. It is shocking that between 2010/12 half the countries across the world had less than 10 convictions for Modern Slavery.

There is often confusion of the terminology around trafficking and smuggling. The easiest way of explaining is: human trafficking is a crime against a person by acquisition of people by improper means. Whereas  human smuggling is the procurement of an illegal entry of a person into a State. Though the two can merge.

Modern Slavery

We need to make sure Modern Slavery has no place in society.  I hope the Modern Slavery Act which is currently winding its way through the House of Lords and Parliament will tackle this issue. When enacted, this piece of legislation will replace, and simplify the current law covering all offences previously described as human trafficking, slavery, forced labour and domestic servitude.

Just like in 1807 when Britain became the first county in the world to outlaw slavery, The Modern Slavery Bill is the first of its kind in Europe in addressing slavery and trafficking in the 21st century. It will give law enforcement the powers they do desperately need to target the slave drivers, that will ensure perpetrators are severely punished. The new legislation will also improve the support and protection of the victims of those vile trade.

The Modern Slavery Bill will strengthen the response of law enforcement and the courts by:

  • Consolidating and simplifying existing modern slavery offences into one Act. Currently modern slavery and trafficking offences are spread across a number of different Acts. The Bill fixes this, providing much-needed clarity and focus and making the law easier to apply.
  • Increasing the maximum sentence available for the most serious offenders from 14 years to life imprisonment, with those who have a previous conviction for a serious sexual or violent offence facing an automatic life sentence.
  • Introducing Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders and Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders to restrict the activity of individuals where they pose a risk of causing harm.
  • Creating a new Anti-Slavery Commissioner, a vital post that will drive an improved and more coordinated law enforcement response at all levels, working in the interests of victims.
  • Ensuring that perpetrators convicted of slavery or trafficking face the toughest asset confiscation regime.
  • Strengthening law enforcement powers at sea to close loopholes which prevent the police and Border Force being able to act where it is suspected that human trafficking or forced labour is taking place on board vessels at sea.

During the Modern Slavery Conference – held at the Eden Project – the audience heard from various Keynote speakers who talked about what is being done by different organisation to tackle Modern Slavery. However, it is only by partnership working with strong data sharing protocols will we really tackle Modern Slavery.

One of the Keynote speakers was the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland. In his address he outlined his key priorities which included: improved victim care and support; effective victim identification and training; partnership working; engagement of the business sector and evaluating organisation. It will be interesting to see how much an impact this office will have if it is not funded right.

The Modern Slavery Conference was excellent, with great keynote speakers. It also showed Cornwall and the South West is not immune to the vile trade of slavery.

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