An historic bill to help stamp out modern slavery was published today by the Home Secretary Theresa May.
The Modern Slavery Bill is the first of its kind in Europe, and one of the first in the world, to specifically address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century. It will give law enforcement the tools they need to target today’s slave drivers, ensure perpetrators are severely punished and improve support and protection for victims.
The Bill reflects the Government’s determination to lead the global fight against modern slavery and to disrupt, prosecute and punish the organised criminal gangs which are behind the majority of this evil trade in human beings.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
Modern slavery is an appalling crime that has no place in today’s society. It is an affront not just to the dignity and humanity of the people crushed by it but to every one of us.
This Bill presents an historic opportunity to get legislation on the statute books specifically targeting the scourge of modern slavery. I want to pay tribute to the campaigners, organisations and Parliamentarians of all parties, who have worked tirelessly to help us arrive at this important milestone.
To stand the best chance of becoming law by the end of this Parliament, the Bill needs to be as clear and tightly focused as possible. But it will be an important start that future governments will be able to build on. It will send the strongest possible signal to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up. And it will say to victims, you are not alone and we are here to help you.
Modern slavery is a complex problem and legislation is only part of the solution. It also requires tireless and coordinated effort across government and law enforcement, work with other countries to tackle the problem at source, and increased awareness within all communities, including the business community. We are taking forward that work in parallel with the passage of the Bill.
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.
The Modern Slavery Bill will ensure victims receive the protection and support they deserve by:
Creating a statutory defence for victims of modern slavery so that those who are compelled to commit an offence are not treated as criminals by the criminal justice system. The defence will not apply to a number of serious offences – mostly sexual and violent offences. It is particularly important that victims of modern slavery have the confidence to come forward and give evidence against their enslavers;
Giving the courts new powers to order perpetrators of slavery and trafficking to pay Reparation Orders to their victims. Where the perpetrator has assets available, the court would have to consider making an Order to provide reparation to the victim for the harm that they have suffered and give reasons if it does not;
Extending special measures so that all victims of modern slavery can be supported through the criminal justice process. This covers screening of witnesses, giving evidence by live link, in private or video recorded. Existing legislation on special measures includes some specific provisions for trafficking cases, the Bill will extend these provisions to also cover slavery, servitude and forced labour;
Providing statutory guidance on victim identification and victim services;
Providing an enabling power for child advocates to support child victims of trafficking; and
Creating a statutory duty for public bodies including the police, local authorities and immigration personnel to notify the National Crime Agency about potential victims of modern slavery.
The new legislation is one element of the Government’s comprehensive programme to tackle modern slavery. This includes a business roundtable to be hosted by the Home Office on Wednesday 11 June to look at how the Government can work with businesses to eliminate forced labour and exploitation from their supply chains.
The Government is working at international level with high risk source countries to try and stop people becoming victims in the first place. On Thursday 12 June the Home Secretary is hosting an event as part of the Global Summit taking place in London, ‘Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative’. The event will focus on the burdens on modern slavery victims, looking in particular at the difficulties of supporting victims through the criminal justice process.
Over the summer trials of new specialist child advocates will begin across 23 local authority areas and an awareness campaign will seek to highlight the hidden nature of modern slavery across a number of sectors and let victims know help is available.