INTERVIEW-UK anti-slavery chief wants more cases exposed, more prosecutions

by Katie Nguyen | Katie_Nguyen1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 18 November 2014 14:18 GMT

Attendees listen to a speaker at the Trust Women conference in London November 18, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

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Anti-slavery chief hopes new law will give victims more confidence to report traffickers, leading to more prosecutions

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain's first anti-slavery commissioner said on Tuesday he would measure success in his first year by an increase in the number of cases of trafficking being reported and by more prosecutions.

Kevin Hyland, former head of London's Metropolitan Police human trafficking unit, was appointed last week by the Home Office (interior ministry) and has 30 years of experience in investigating organised crime.

His role was created as part of the Modern Slavery Bill, which the government expects to become law before the next general election in 2015.

"One of the things I want is a significant increase in the reporting of crimes. Some would say, shouldn't success be about a reduction in crime? Well, in this case, it's an increase and a significant increase (as a result of) finding more victims and more activity," Hyland told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview on the sidelines of the TRF women's rights conference.

In 2012, 1,186 potential victims of human trafficking were referred to the National Referral Mechanism - established to identify trafficking victims - a 25 percent increase from 2011.

But charities and campaign groups say the crime is under-reported, partly because victims are afraid to speak out.

Hyland said he wanted victims to have the confidence to come forward to report their experiences, leading to more traffickers being prosecuted and convicted.

One of his duties will be to report annually on national efforts to tackle modern slavery. That will include an obligation to "name and shame" police forces and public sector bodies that are not doing their job properly, he said.

"My aims and objectives are to improve those services so nobody does get named and shamed because we're doing the right thing," Hyland said.

There were 49 convictions for human trafficking in England and Wales between 2009 and 2011 where trafficking was the principal offence, according to official figures.

"There doesn't have to be a presumption that a victim has to support a prosecution. It's about more than law enforcement," said Hyland, who was due to speak at the Trust Women conference on Wednesday.

"I've seen healthcare professionals identifying cases of slavery and trafficking and that's because people have had training."

The Modern Slavery Bill aims to consolidate and simplify existing slavery and trafficking offences in one wide-ranging bill and to raise the maximum penalty to life imprisonment.

"The reason why I see this as probably one of the most important crimes is because we've got people being sold, we've got people being moved around the world, we've got victims who I've met who've been subjected to violence, sexually abused, sold time and time again, kept in circumstances that are horrific," Hyland said.

"This has to be a priority crime for everybody," he added.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

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