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Case Studies

Modern slavery report

The number of live operations by police against modern slavery has tripled since 2015, when the Modern Slavery Act 2015 became law. That’s according to first annual report by the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit, based in Devon and set up in April 2017.

In February 2018 police held 568 live Modern Slavery operations, more than triple the 188 being managed in December 2015. Police force investigations are also driving the rise in referrals of suspected victims of modern slavery to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), as announced by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for Modern Slavery, Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, says: “The Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit, funded by the Home Office, is supporting forces and other agencies to improve the way modern slavery is tackled in the UK, and this rise is partly down to the increased awareness and proactivity of police.

“It means police are identifying more victims of modern slavery than ever before, ensuring they get the support they need and exploitation is stopped. Identifying and investigating modern slavery is rarely clear cut. But the increase in police-led operations shows that police are recognising the signs of this incredibly complex crime. However, we know there is still work to do and we will continue to improve how we deal with modern slavery and support victims. Modern slavery is a crime that crosses borders and requires many agencies to work together. International cooperation is often necessary, sometimes from countries where slavery is not even recognised as a crime.

“As highlighted in the annual report, a huge amount of work has gone into increasing our understanding of the complexities of tackling modern slavery. For example, the Unit has developed the National Modern Slavery Operations Database which means we have an overview of operational activity in all 43 police forces for the first time. It is also developing an evidence base for developing best practice and training. The national police transformation programme brings together experts from 20 different national and international organisations, including Europol. It helps bridge the gap between forces and other agencies and facilitates information sharing on local, national and international levels.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, who chairs the National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network for PCCs in England and Wales, says: “We have come a long way in recent years to improve the identification and recovery of potential victims of human trafficking and modern slavery who are some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”


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