Home Office publishes new statutory guidance – ‘Modern slavery: how to identify and support victims’

Earlier in November 2021, UK’s Home Office published new statutory guidance on identifying and supporting modern slavery victims. Aimed at competent authority staff in England and Wales, the guidance explores what amounts to slavery, human trafficking and exploitation.

The guidance emphasis that human smuggling is not human trafficking and explains the differences between them, as well as, providing a list of myths about modern slavery and dispelling them.

The guidance also emphasises that competent authority staff, while not First Responders, should be aware of the indicators of modern slavery. It further explains system of identifying victims, lists the non-public authorities that are First Responders and further lists non-First Responder Organisations involved in tacking modern slaver and human trafficking.

The guidance then focuses on the process of referring potential victims, working with vulnerable people and the NRM decision making process. Lastly, it explores the support for adult and child victims.

Please see the government website for the full guidance.

Sentencing Council Publishes Sentencing Guidelines for Modern Slavery Offences

Following a consultation, the Sentencing Council has published new sentencing guidelines for offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

The new guidelines will come into effect on 1st October 2021 and will be used by magistrates and judges when sentencing offenders for offences under sections 1, 2, 4 and 30 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. This means the offences covered by the sentencing guidelines include: slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour; human trafficking; committing an offence with intent to commit human trafficking; and breach of a slavery and trafficking prevention order or a slavery and trafficking risk order.

The sentencing guidelines aim to promote consistency in approach in sentencing for modern slavery offences. Under the new guidelines, offenders could face up to 18 years in prison.

For the Sentencing Council’s announcement and guidelines please see here.

National Referral Mechanism Statistics UK, 3rd Quarter 2020 – July to September

The UK Home Office has published the most recent Modern Slavery Statistics, covering quarter 3 of 2020 (July – September).

Home Office reports that 2,506 potential victims of modern slavery were referred to the NRM. 1,224 (29%) of the NRM referrals claimed exploitation as adults whilst 1,159 (46%) claimed exploitation as children. For 5% of the referral their age at exploitation was unknown.

Overall, of the 2,506 potential victims referred in this quarter, 74% (1,853) were male and 26% (647) were female; these proportions are similar to the previous quarter. For adult potential victims, 69% (849) were male and 31% (374) were female, whilst for child potential victims, 79% (912) were male and 21% (242) were female.

The statistics flag the issue of ‘county lines’ exploitation of children – with 401 referrals flagged as county lines referrals, accounting for 16% of all referrals received in the quarter. The majority (82%; 328) of these referrals were made for male children.

UK, Albanian and Vietnamese citizens remain the most common nationalities referred to the NRM.

For detailed statistics please see the government website here. 

National Referral Mechanism Statistics UK, 1st Quarter 2020 – January to March

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the UK framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support. This statistical bulletin gives a summary and breakdown of the number of potential victims of modern slavery referred into the National Referral Mechanism from 1 January to 31 March 2020 (quarter 1).

Follow this link for the NRM Statistics UK, Quarter 1 2020 – January to March.

Prevalence of Minors in Kathmandu’s Adult Entertainment Sector

A report released last year by the Freedom Fund and John Jay College gives some of the first reliable estimates in relation to how many children are involved in the adult entertainment industry in Kathmandu. It has always been known that a significant number of young people and children work in the adult entertainment industry in Kathmandu, but until recently no reliable estimates existed as to the true scale of the problem.

The study found that approximately 1650 young people under the age of 17 are working in the adult entertainment industry, making up approximately 17% of those working in the industry. The study also found 62% of workers were working in the industry before the age of 18. The majority of underage workers in the adult entertainment industry were found to be working in sexually exploitative environments and 99% were considered to be held in the worst forms of child slavery as defined by the International Labour Organisation’s convention.

The full study can be found here.

UK’s First Super-Complaint Relating to Modern Slavery

The NGO Hestia made a super-complaint regarding UK law enforcement’s response to modern slavery. Modern slavery operations by police forces increased by 250% in 2018, however only 7% of these cases have been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. Their report Underground Lives from March 2019 indicates that police are criminalising the victims of trafficking, therefore hindering the prosecution of their exploiters. HTMSE founder Philippa Southwell was quoted in this report:

“We are still prosecuting individuals on a daily basis when there are key trafficking indicators. […] If we continue to prosecute victims of forced criminality, we will continue to have low prosecution rates for modern slavery-related cases. Almost all of my clients that have been prosecuted do not want to co-operate with a subsequent or parallel investigation into their exploitation because they feel they are not believed.”  

For the full March 2019 report Underground Lives by Hestia, read here.  

EUROPOL REPORT: Criminal networks involved in the trafficking and exploitation of underage victims in the EU 2018

Europol’s latest report follows as human trafficking is a crime priority in the 2018 – 2021 EU Policy Cycle. Notably, Europol reports that approximately 28 percent of global trafficking victims are children, who are preyed on as they are one of the most vulnerable and weak social sectors. In the EU, traffickers target minors primarily for sexual exploitation, also labour exploitation and forced criminality. A prominent issue is the lack of reporting around male minors trafficked or exploited within the EU.

The aim is to disrupt organised crime groups (OCGs) involved in intra-EU human trafficking and human trafficking from the most prevalent external source countries for the purposes of labour exploitation and sexual exploitation, including those groups using legal business structures to facilitate or disguise their criminal activities.

For the full October 2018 report ‘Criminal networks involved in the trafficking and exploitation of underage victims in the EU’, read here.

UNODC ANNUAL REPORT: Covering activities during 2017

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) plays a critical role in global crime intervention. Their remit covers cooperation between member states, helping governments to achieve sustainable peace, security and development as outlined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The 2017 annual report marks their 20th anniversary and outlines their significant activities during the year. Notable work is outlined within these five sectors:

  • DRUGS, HEALTH AND TRAFFICKING: Supporting Member States in implementing a comprehensive, integrated and balanced approach to addressing and countering the world drug problem

  • TRANSNATIONAL ORGANISED CRIME: Strengthening States’ capacity to confront threats from transnational organised crime and trafficking

  • JUSTICE: Boosting respect for the rule of law and human rights by strengthening crime prevention and building effective criminal justice systems

  • CORRUPTION: Promoting good governance, integrity and transparency in the public and private sectors for sustainable development

  • TERRORISM: Supporting Member States to enhance their criminal justice responses to terrorism

For the full UNODC ANNUAL REPORT: Covering activities during 2017, read here. 

Still No Way Out: Foreign national women and trafficked women in the criminal justice system

Foreign national women face risk factors for human trafficking or sex trafficking, and in some cases of forced criminality yet have wound up in UK prison. The support for this demographic is varied between prisons. To address this, the report Still No Way Out Foreign National Women and Trafficked Women in the Criminal justice System addresses the experience of foreign national women and trafficked women in the criminal justice system within England and Wales between using data between 2013-2017.

Some of the key findings:

  • Foreign national women represent 8% of the general population in England and Wales, but over 12% of all women received into prison each year and nearly 19% of those remanded.
  • Most (59%) of the foreign national women in prison in England and Wales at time of reporting (2017) were from Europe, with the largest groups from Romania and Ireland.
  • The offences for which foreign national women are imprisoned are overwhelmingly nonviolent. The most common offences for which the women were in prison were fraud (18%), theft (18%) and false document offences (10%). These are all indicator offences for trafficking and coercion.
  • The Modern Slavery Act 2015 introduced a defence for victims of modern slavery compelled to commit a criminal offence. Yet evidence confirms that victims of modern slavery continue to be prosecuted for crimes they were forced to commit.


For the full report Still No Way Out by The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) and Hibiscus Initiatives, read here.

Victim, Not Criminal – Trafficked Children and the Non-Punishment Principle in the UK

UNICEF’s report Victim, Not Criminal analyses the current legal framework concerning non-punishment of child victims of human trafficking involved in forced criminality. The report critiques the implementation of the Section 45 slavery defence and provides recommendations for change. Key recommendations include:

  • „The reasonable person test relating to the statutory defence in Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act should no longer apply to children „
  • Mechanisms are put in place by the prosecuting agencies and government to properly monitor the implementation of the non-punishment principle across the UK „
  • Further training and awareness-raising is made available for police, prosecutors, judges, legal representatives and relevant practitioners on the protections from prosecution available for trafficked children.


For the full report Victim, Not Criminal – Trafficked Children and the Non-Punishment Principle in the UK, read here.