Trafficking prosecutions hit record in England and Wales following slavery law

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 26 February 2016 15:57 GMT

In this 2008 file photo, "Alicia" (R), a Rwandan woman who was brought from Africa to a south London apartment and forced to have sex while her captor collected her earnings, speaks with a member of the Helen Bamber Foundation in central London. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

Image Caption and Rights Information
The prosecutions have increased since the introduction of a new anti-slavery law last year

LONDON, Feb 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Prosecutions for human trafficking in England and Wales have increased since the introduction of a new anti-slavery law last year, prosecutors said on Friday as they announced new commitments to tackle the scourge.

Britain's chief prosecutor Alison Saunders said the number of people trafficked as labourers or domestic workers now exceeded the number forced into sexual exploitation.

There has also been an increase in the trafficking of people for sham marriages, she said.

There are an estimated 13,000 victims of forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude in Britain. Globally, forced labour generates an estimated $150 billion in illegal profits every year.

The Modern Slavery Act - which came into force in July - increased maximum jail terms for traffickers to life and brought in measures to protect people believed to be at risk of enslavement.

Figures for England and Wales show 183 people were prosecuted for trafficking offences between April and December 2015, which prosecutors said was a new record.

Courts have also made 12 Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders aimed at stopping traffickers committing further offences.

These have included bans on holding travel documents for other people, bans on owning more than one mobile phone and bans on travelling in certain areas outside Britain.

"SLAVE WORKFORCE"

Recently convicted traffickers include two Lithuanian men who brought workers from their home country to work in British food processing factories for as little as 8 pence ($0.11) a day.

Three others were jailed for trafficking women from Slovakia to marry Indian or Pakistani men in Britain.

A factory owner was also jailed for employing large numbers of Hungarians as a "slave workforce" in his multi-million pound bed manufacturing business. They worked for up to 20 hours a day for little or no wages.

Prosecutors from across the United Kingdom also said they had drawn up a new plan for working together to disrupt human trafficking networks.

Commitments include updating training for police and prosecutors working on trafficking cases to ensure the strongest possible cases are prepared and prosecuted.

Saunders said the new focus on trafficking crimes was paying off.

"This year we're already on track for more people facing trafficking charges in England and Wales than ever before," she added.

"We are also working with national and international partners in priority locations in Europe and Africa as part of the UK effort to disrupt people smuggling and trafficking networks at their source or in transit."

(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.