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The police service across the UK is committed to combating modern slavery, which is a global problem with an estimated 20-30 million victims worldwide. Contrary to common belief modern slavery is prevalent even here in our own country. It is has recently been estimated that there are currently between 10-13,000 victims of slavery in the UK.

Modern slavery is now estimated to be the 2 nd largest illicit trade worldwide. The International Labour Organisation recently estimated that labour exploitation alone was worth $150bn worldwide per annum.

As the national policing lead for modern slavery I have been working with the government, police forces, other law enforcement agencies and wider partnerships for us all to improve our response to modern slavery. For the Police, our overriding focus is to improve our ability to identify, rescue and support victims and in doing so ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice.

The Home Office has worked to develop improved legislation through the introduction of the Modern Slavery Bill, which, once enacted, will provide law enforcement agencies in the UK with a greater opportunity and stronger framework to protect victims, bring offenders to justice and recover illicit assets. The recent appointment of an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner will assist in ensuring all agencies work efficiently and effectively in the fight against slavery.

The national modern slavery portfolio within the police service has developed a national action plan, with a view to improving our operational and strategic responses to this heinous crime. The plan covers the full process from preventative measures right the way through to prosecution. This has been presented to ACPO Crime Business Area and Chief Constables’ Council.

Over the next 12 months I have identified a number of key objectives which will form the bedrock on which we develop the means by which we deliver the wider action plan.

  1. Training, awareness and guidance: Working with the College of Policing – the professional body which looks after training and standards in policing - I have focussed on developing awareness, knowledge and expertise aimed at improving the quality of victim identification, victim care, investigations and prosecutions. This work has concentrated on delivering a variety of options from basic awareness packages through to bespoke training programmes for investigators. To ensure these programmes are properly supported, we are developing an operational manual of guidance and online resources providing a library of related documents, case study examples and the opportunity for online discussion. The College will soon be putting out to consultation a plan for what we refer to as Authorised Professional Practice – the officially accredited practical guidance which police are expected to follow in dealing with a particular crime type – on the topic of modern slavery, and we expect it to be brought into force very soon.
  2. Improved data: Through improvements in the way in which we gather and manage data and intelligence we will develop a greater strategic understanding both nationally and at a more localised level, which in turn will lead to improvements in our tactical response. It is vital that we develop the best possible picture of how modern slavery manifests itself across the country. I will be introducing new national processes which will not only focus on the hard data but will also introduce de-briefing measures to gather more of the context of this crime, and thus enrich our understanding.
  3. Partnership working: Policing cannot tackle this problem alone and the importance of developing partnership approaches cannot be underemphasised. The police are experts at catching criminals and bringing perpetrators to justice, but this is a small part of the fight against modern slavery. We must recognise that Modern Slavery is not an issue we can prosecute our way out of.

I cannot overstate the commitment of the police service to this endeavour. Over 200 years on from our nation’s abolition of slavery, it is unacceptable that people still live in slavery. With a mixture of good intelligence, better understanding of the crime type and an enhanced legislative framework, we in the police can play our fullest role in keeping victims safe and bringing traffickers to justice. But we can always do with more help from the public. Please visit the Home Office modern slavery website: https://modernslavery.co.uk , study how to spot the signs of modern slavery and, if you have the slightest suspicion that there is a crime happening in your area, contact the national modern slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700, your local police on 101 (or 999 if someone is in imminent danger) or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice on Modern Slavery is available here.