Justice and Safety

Getting down to business

December 17, 2015 by No Comments | Category Reducing Crime

Human trafficking and exploitation are horrific crimes with devastating effects on victims, who can be too scared to come forward.   The fact that someone is a victim may not always be obvious and, indeed, victims themselves may not even see that they are being abused.   In Scotland today, a belief that ‘this can’t be happening here’ – even among professionals – can delay us in recognising and responding to trafficking and exploitation.

Those who traffic other people enforce secrecy so it’s hard to know how prevalent human trafficking is in Scotland or to be aware of all its different facets.   The statistics we do have are limited, heavily caveated and don’t always chime with the experiences and insights of those on the ground – see NCA’s latest report for 2014 released this week.

We know that human trafficking is most definitely happening here.  In response, Scottish Ministers made a commitment to put in place the tools and framework to fight this heinous crime and support its victims. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 creates a clear, single human trafficking offence punishable by a maximum life sentence. The Act was granted Royal Assent on 4 November this year.

While this is a milestone it has always been clear that legislation alone would not be enough; that’s why we and our core partners in police, health, justice the third sector and local government have started work to develop a Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy. We had our first meeting as an implementation group this week to construct a shared approach that we all think can make real inroads against these crimes.

Faced with such a difficult issue, questions about what the strategy should focus on are not straightforward. How do we develop an approach to respond to trafficking in Scotland but also have a wider effect on ending this cross-border crime? How do we measure a crime that’s mainly committed in the shadows? And if we start to get better at measurement and identifying more trafficking victims is that because we have successfully raised awareness – or because our intelligence is getting better?  Where do we best put our resources for greatest effect? Thinking about why trafficking happens in the first place – what can we do about the root causes in terms of vulnerability and organised crime. Our joint work on the Strategy will not provide immediate solutions but will help us to make positive progress and to agree priority actions. 

At this week’s meeting, two themes came up repeatedly – partnership and awareness raising.  Working together on our Strategy is a good start to building both of these.   Next, we want to bring a wider group of stakeholders together at a Strategy Forum in late January, adding to the pool of expertise and keeping the conversation going. If you have any comments, let me know at neil.rennick@gov.scot

Neil Rennick

Director – Justice

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