UK & World News

  • 16 December 2013, 8:07

Slavery Bill Promises Life Terms For Traffickers

Human traffickers could be given maximum life sentences in jail under new anti-slavery laws published today.

The Modern Slavery Bill contains provisions to give automatic life sentences to offenders who already have convictions for very serious sexual or violent offences.

The draft Bill, announced by Home Secretary Theresa May at the Conservative Party conference in September, pulls together into a single act the offences used to prosecute slave drivers.

It also introduces Trafficking Prevention Orders to restrict the activity and movement of convicted traffickers and stop them from committing further offences.

And a new anti-slavery commissioner will be appointed to hold law enforcement and other organisations to account.

The founder of human trafficking charity Hope for Justice, Ben Cooley, welcomed the move.

He said: "We've learnt from experience that victim welfare is inextricably linked to the prosecution of perpetrators. When victims are supported from rescue right through to the courtroom, their testimonies make all the difference in seeing justice served. Sadly, we don't always see that happen in the UK and Hope for Justice exists to stand in those gaps.

"This Bill is a critical step towards ending slavery in our country but going forwards we must all ensure that victims are supported so they don't disappear on the other side of initial after-care provision just to be re-trafficked."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the legislation should do more to provide protection for child victims of trafficking.

Two-thirds of children found by authorities after being held as slaves go missing again because the system to protect them is not strong enough, Ms Cooper added.

She said: "Failed once by those who betrayed them into slavery, they are failed again by the state in not protecting them. Trafficked children should have access to a trusted and independent advocate, or guardian, who is legally responsible for them and their interests.

"There is a growing coalition of support behind this new policy, from the charities and frontline practitioners to campaigners in Parliament. We need tough action to stop traffickers, but prosecutions will fail, justice will be denied and slavery will continue unless there is more support for victims too."

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