Modern day slave drivers will face the full force of the law with the maximum sentence for trafficking offences increased to life, it has been announced today.
The move will make sure the worst perpetrators can get a life sentence while those who already have a conviction for a very serious sexual or violent offence will face an automatic life sentence.
The measure will be included in a Modern Slavery Bill with James Brokenshire as Minister for the Bill, to be published this year in draft form for pre-legislative scrutiny.
The bill will consolidate into a single act the offences used to prosecute slave drivers. It will also introduce Trafficking Prevention Orders to restrict the activity and movement of convicted traffickers and stop them from committing further offences and a new Anti-Slavery Commissioner to hold law enforcement and other organisations to account.
Action is being taken as numbers of identified trafficking victims across the UK continues to rise. A report published today by the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group (IDMG) on Human Trafficking shows that 1186 people were identified and referred for support in 2012 - an increase of 25% in the number of referrals from 2011. The report shows that trafficking remains primarily an organised crime associated with gangs.
James Brokenshire, Crime and Security Minister, said:
Modern slavery is an appalling evil in our midst. Today’s figures are unlikely to reflect the full extent of this largely hidden crime or the human suffering that lies behind each statistic.
We are taking action to better support and protect victims. At the same time the best way to reduce their number is to disrupt, convict and imprison the criminals involved. That is why combating trafficking is central to our Serious and Organised Crime Strategy and a priority for the new National Crime Agency.
The Modern Slavery Bill will also send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up.
All this is a good start, but we need everyone to play a part – government, law enforcement, business, charities – if we are to consign slavery to the history books where it belongs.