Review of modern slavery urges ministers act quickly to increase conviction rates

Modern slavery pervades every community of the UK and laws set up to target perpetrators must be strengthened, according to a new report.

An independent review of the Modern Slavery Act urges ministers to act “quickly and effectively” to implement a raft of recommendations.

The legislation was introduced in 2015 by then home secretary Theresa May to enhance support and protection for victims and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.

Modern slavery encompasses a broad range of offending including exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude and human trafficking.

An official estimate previously indicated there are up to 13,000 potential victims in the UK, but experts have said the number is now significantly higher.

Last year, the Government announced an independent review to look at the operations and effectiveness of the Act and suggest potential improvements.

The final report, by Frank Field MP, Maria Miller MP and Baroness Butler-Sloss, will be published on Wednesday.

Mr Field (pictured), the review’s chairman, said: “Modern slavery is one of humanity’s greatest evils: involving human trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation.”

He added that the “perpetrators of these crimes exploit the most vulnerable people in our society” and “modern slavery pervades every country in the world and every community of the United Kingdom”.

In a foreword for the report, Mr Field said the “world-leading” Act gives law enforcement agencies the tools to tackle modern slavery offences.

“But there are still sadly too few convictions being handed down for the new offences prosecuted under the Act, and too few Slavery and Trafficking Prevention and Risk Orders are in place to restrict offender activity,” he added.

The review made a total of 80 recommendations across four areas, the role of the independent anti-slavery commissioner, transparency in supply chains, independent child trafficking advocates and the legal application of the Act.

Ms Miller said: “The Government has made substantial progress in tackling modern slavery and human trafficking in recent years, but there is still much to do.

“We want to see more of the individuals who commit these heinous crimes brought to justice, businesses do all they can to rid their supply chains of exploitation, and for the Government to provide holistic and long-term support to victims.”

Baroness Butler-Sloss said: “We urge the Government to respond quickly to the recommendations we have made, bringing new legislation into effect wherever necessary, and adding teeth to that legislation which already exists.”

Victoria Atkins, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, said: “I welcome the review’s assessment that the Act remains a pioneering and ground-breaking piece of legislation.

“Sadly, modern slavery, forced labour and human trafficking are not evils of the past – they are with us today and their victims are hidden in plain sight.

“Through the Modern Slavery Act, the Government is committed to ensuring victims get the support they need and perpetrators are brought to justice. We will be providing a full response to the review’s recommendations.”

Independent anti-slavery commissioner Sara Thornton welcomed the report.

She said: “I support the need to ensure that businesses and government are doing all they can to exclude slavery from supply chains, the importance of providing improved support for all child victims of slavery and the importance of upholding my independence as I monitor the work of public authorities in fighting modern slavery and drive the UK’s response to protect the most vulnerable in our society.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Devlin / PA Wire.