Parties unite to combat human trafficking in Scotland

Labour and the Scottish Government have united to introduce tougher penalties for human traffickers and provide enhanced support for victims.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has adopted a member’s bill by Labour MSP Jenny Marra for a Scottish anti-human trafficking strategy, with special treatment of related crime in the criminal justice system and support for survivors.

Mr MacAskill has written to Ms Marra indicating that the Scottish Government will give full effect to a final proposal before the end of the current parliamentary session.

Ms Marra said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government has accepted my proposals to combat human trafficking here in Scotland.

“The unique thing about these Scottish proposals is that they drill down into our public services to make our communities an unwelcome place for trafficking.

“I look forward to meeting with Kenny MacAskill to get a full understanding of the government’s intentions. These proposals must be enacted in full. They work as a package with robust law and legal rights for victims to get the care that they need.

“Scotland will be a beacon to the world with these robust anti-trafficking laws once they are passed.”

The Scottish Government intends to consolidate and strengthen existing criminal law against human trafficking, enhance the status of and support for victims and give statutory responsibility to relevant agencies to work with the Scottish Government to develop and implement a Scottish anti-trafficking strategy

Mr MacAskill said: “Human trafficking is a crime than transcends borders, and we will continue to work with the UK and Northern Irish Governments as we develop our Bill proposals.

“We are also grateful to Jenny Marra MSP for her interest in this agenda – the responses to her consultation on a possible Member’s Bill confirmed strong support for Scottish human trafficking legislation.

“The work of the cross-party group on human trafficking has also been invaluable in raising awareness of this issue. Human trafficking is a matter of criminal law as well as victim support and it is right that legislation on this issue should be led by Scottish Ministers.

“Ultimately, we are determined to develop legislation that gives our police, prosecutors and other agencies the powers to make Scotland a hostile environment for human traffickers, but also helps to identify and support the needs of victims.”

Robert McCrea, chief executive officer of Migrant Help, said: “As an organisation we have been continuously impressed by the way the Scottish Government approaches issues of human trafficking and modern day slavery. Victims support has always been caring and sophisticated.

“Therefore we understand why the Scottish Government would wish to formalise this work by compounding the best practice and experience into a bill proposal.”

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, co-convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on human trafficking, said: “Human trafficking, often linked to forced labour, domestic servitude and prostitution, is an absolutely appalling crime and this Bill is a welcome step in seeking to tackle this profiteering from human misery.

“The Bill’s focus on victim support as well as criminal law is also welcome. It is absolutely right that every support is offered to people who have been through such horrific experiences.”

A Crown Office spokeswoman said: “We welcome today’s announcement to strengthen the criminal law against human trafficking and increase support for victims.

“Tragically, human trafficking is a big business, it has strong links to serious and organised crime and it is of great concern that it takes place in Scotland.

“The Lord Advocate has already appointed a specialist prosecutor to deal with cases involving those who commit these abhorrent crimes to ensure the challenges of prosecuting these crimes are addressed from the outset.

“The measures announced today will greatly assist prosecutors in ensuring that those who peddle such misery face the consequences of their actions.”

Unicef UK’s deputy executive director Anita Tiessen said: “Unicef UK welcomes the news from the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill that the Scottish Government will introduce a Human Trafficking Bill as a result of Jenny Marra MSP’s Private Member’s Bill.

“It is encouraging to see a Bill that will help focus attention on securing and protecting the rights of people who have been trafficked.

“Children account for over 20% of all those who have been trafficked in Scotland. Children who are trafficked are often sexually exploited or forced into slavery and the physical and psychological scars can last a lifetime.

“We want to see the Human Trafficking Bill ensuring that trafficked children receive the specialised counselling and support they so desperately need. It must ensure that children receive access to education and support services, to help them make vital decisions about their future.”

Michael Clancy, director of Law Reform at the Law Society of Scotland, said: “The law in Scotland needs to be robust in dealing with those who commit such crime and in protecting those who are used and abused according to the whim of traffickers.

“We would like to pay tribute to Jenny Marra MSP who has worked to raise this as an issue and to the Scottish Government for its commitment to bringing forward new legislation which will strengthen our criminal law against trafficking and provide support for victims. We will look forward to commenting on the Bill’s proposals.”

Siobhan Reardon, Amnesty Scotland’s programme director, said: “By ensuring that the welfare of the victim is placed above all else and providing police, prosecutors and other agencies with the tools to detect and prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous crime, the Scottish Government is showing that it is serious about making Scotland a no-go area for traffickers.

“We look forward to working with the government and the many anti-trafficking campaigners, including the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Human Rights and Jenny Marra MSP, to see this intention become law.”

Police Scotland deputy chief constable Iain Livingstone said: “Police Scotland working with our partners is committed to tackling human trafficking within Scotland’s communities.

“The creation of Police Scotland reinforced this commitment with the introduction of the National Human Trafficking Unit.

“In response to previous consultation processes in respect of proposed changes to human trafficking legislation, we have indicated our support and would welcome any opportunity that legislative reform would bring in assisting us and our partners tackle this crime.

“We will continue to target and disrupt those involved in the exploitation of others whilst working with partners to assist in supporting the victims of trafficking.”