The report highlights that progress has been made, as well as the drawbacks, such as successful prosecution of perpetrators remaining infrequent. The Commissioner emphasises the need for research which could contribute more to the practical understanding of what works in terms of victims support and prosecution of offenders.
Particularly, the report underscores the need for protection of victims who commit criminal offences as a direct consequence of their trafficking. According to the report, child exploitation in county lines remains prevalent, though the possibility of criminal exploitation is not being considered at the start of an investigation risking victims being wrongly prosecuted. However, non-prosecution alone does not protect children or vulnerable adults; effective safeguarding is needed instead, the report indicates.
For the full findings of the report, please see here.
HTMSE Director, Philippa Southwell, provided evidence in the case of A & B v CICA, for which the Supreme Court has now handed down the judgment. Philippa’s evidence was based on her legal expertise in modern slavery, human trafficking and forced criminality.
The Court was asked to decide whether A and B were discriminated against contrary to Article 14 and 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, by being barred from compensation under the 2012 iteration of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) based on having unspent convictions.
The Court rules that an automatic bar on compensation was lawful, where there was no nexus between the unspent convictions and trafficking. This still potentially allows for arguments for compensation on the grounds of nexus between trafficking the crime committed, if the victim has been unable to benefit from non-punishment provisions.
You can find the full judgment on the Supreme Court website here.
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has refused UK Government’s request that the case of V.C.L. and A.N. v. United Kingdom (nos. 77587/12 and 74603/12) be referred to the Grand Chamber. The judgment, handed down on 16th February 2021, is now final.
This was landmark case in which the Chamber of the ECtHR unanimously found breaches of Articles 4 (prohibition of forced labour) and 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights
Philippa Southwell, HTMSE director, represented VCL in both domestic proceedings and in his application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Also instructed on behalf of VCL were Henry Blaxland QC, Emma Fitzsimons and Stephen Clark of Garden Court Chambers alongside Michelle Brewer, a former tenant who left Chambers to become a First-Tier Tribunal judge in the Immigration and Asylum Chamber.
For the confirmation of the rejection for referral to the Grand Chamber please see here.
Writing in an article in the Red Box section of The Times, they recommend specific measures and commitments to solve modern day slavery, emphasising that it requires and investment of capital and political will. They appeal to the G7 leaders to condemn forced labour in goods and services in their supply chains and commit to enforcing this.
It is proposed that G7 agree on specific and measurable commitments, such as eradication of forced labour in the G7 supply chains by 2025, and worldwide by 2030. Then, they should agree on steps to harmonise their laws and standards, followed by increase in investment in the countries trying to do the right thing. Lastly, the article calls for a ban to all state-controlled forced labour.
To read the full article by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and CEO of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, please see here.
12th June was the official World Day Against Child Labour. Children around the world are routinely engaged in paid and unpaid forms of work that are not harmful to them. However, they are classified as child labourers when they are either too young to work, or are involved in hazardous activities that may compromise their physical, mental, social or educational development.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, the report reflects on how it threatens to reverse years of progress in tackling the problem of child labour and assesses how the pace of progress towards ending child labour is likely to be affected by the continuing pandemic and the economic crisis that has accompanied it.
For more on the World Day Against Child Labour, please see here, whilst you can find the ILO and UNICEF report here.
Philippa Southwell, founder of HTMSE and leading modern slavery lawyer represented one of the victims, VCL, in the landmark ECHR case, in relation to victims of human trafficking. Philippa represented VCL in both domestic proceedings and in his application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The ECHR judgement finds failure to adequately protect potential victims of child trafficking. Judgement in the case of V.C.L. AND A.N. v. the United Kingdom (applications nos. 77587/12 and 74603/12) was handed down last week held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 4 (prohibition of forced labour) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and
a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial).
This case is likely to have wide reaching impact for victims of human trafficking.
January 11th marked the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the US. Designated in 2007, it aims to raise awareness in the United States about human trafficking and modern slavery on national level.
The Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Expert Directory was established to bring together leading professionals and specialist organisations working in the counter human trafficking and modern slavery sector and provides access to specialists from around the globe, from all different professions and disciplines.
We encourage all professionals, NGOs, charities, businesses, lawyers, medical practitioners, or other experts or specialist organisations not listed in the HTMSE directory to sign up to create a profile here: https://humantraffickingexperts.com/main/signup
Experts are calling on the UK Government to ‘turn the tide’: by ensuring victims of trafficking do not face punitive immigration control measures and Modern Slavery survivors receive needed support, particularly urging the Government to ensure victims receive support and immigration protection for at least 12 months – in line with the proposed Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill. At present, traffickers threats of detention and deportation as a mechanism to control vulnerable whilst victims already struggle to secure protection under the current asylum process as it is ‘notorious for disbelief’.
Several signatories to the letter can be found in the HTMSE Directory which connects modern slavery and human trafficking victims with experts in modern slavery across all areas of practice. We encourage anyone, whether a professional, NGO, charity, business, lawyer, medical practitioner, or other expert or specialist organisation not listed in the HTMSE directory to sign up to create a profile here: https://humantraffickingexperts.com/main/signup
This issue has triggered UK charity Hestia to make the first police super-complaint on modern slavery response. This aims to highlight the harmful patterns in policing seen within the actions of non-specialist police as first responders, and create plans to overcome these barriers. Testimonials from victims of modern slavery, and experts including academic researchers, legal experts, voluntary sector organisations that work in the slavery response, including HTMSE founder and director Philippa Southwell gave evidence during 2018-2019 to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Modern Slavery towards the complaint. This highlights:
Within the police forces, there is a lack of understanding of modern slavery, human trafficking and exploitation and the process in which they should respond. Officers often fail to recognise the signs of exploitation, and therefore fail to engage with the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and the duty to notify the Home Office upon identification of a potential victim.
Subsequently, as victims are treated as criminals upon their first interaction with the police, they are being alienated by the CJS. They are often treated as immigration offenders, or if they are engaged in crimes which they have been forced to commit by their exploiters they are treated as criminals. Treating victims with this contempt undermines the system by creating barriers for the victim to trust the police or the process in which they are rehabilitated.
Some of the bad police practice highlighted by Hestia is when police forces fail to adequately investigate cases that come to their attention. If they do pursue investigation, issues in their response often include:
officers prioritising pursuing immigration offences over protecting victims;
female victims of sexual exploitation being interviewed by male officers using male interpreters;
and victims not being informed by the police that they had decided to drop the investigation into their exploiters and traffickers.
This exacerbates the potential mistrust of authority caused by the trauma of their exploiters, or the fear that cooperating with police may cause retributions from their exploiters. Further trauma may be caused by their experience in the system, particularly in having to relay information about their exploitation.
Although the Modern Slavery Act 2015 was a landmark forward in tackling modern slavery from a legislatorial standpoint, the message it sends must be carried through the to grass roots actions of policing. Good practice of police depends upon an understanding of the complex trauma that victims have experienced. Creating a safe space to conduct interviews of victims is critical, which allows for the flexibility of individual cases, engaging trusted support workers and the use of neutral and non-judgmental language. There has been advancement in police practice by the operation of specialist modern slavery units, as well as funding for the Modern Slavery Police and Transformation Unit in 2017. Although some training of police forces exists, it is absent from the ongoing professional development of forces in the UK. Mandatory and effective modern slavery training must be integrated into police practice in order to adequately combat this complex crime.
By exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and subjecting more potential victims into vulnerable status, Coronavirus has uprooted much progress made towards protecting women’s rights around the world. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) deems 19 medical practices rooted in gender inequality a violation of human rights, including practices such as breast ironing and virginity testing. Their 2020 report Against My Will focuses on female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons as three widespread practices that constitute a “silent and endemic crisis“. These acts involve exploitation and fall under the umbrella modern slavery or violate fundamental human rights of female victims. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an exponential increase in gender based violence and the breakdown of critical sexual health services which deprive women of their reproductive health rights.