Modern Slavery Act Receives Royal Assent


The UK Modern Slavery Act received Royal Assent today.

Under the Act human trafficking offences are in one place, maximum jail sentences for traffickers increase from 14 years to life and the authorities will be able to seize traffickers’ assets and force them to pay compensation to their victims.

Hope for Justice CEO Ben Cooley said, “We still have work to do, putting these powers to good use for victims, but today we are one step closer to the end of modern slavery. It’s a good day for abolitionists around the world”.

The final Act does not include a proposed amendment ending the controversial ‘tied visa’ scheme. Under the scheme migrant domestic workers are unable to change employers without losing their immigration status. This has led to significant concerns that domestic workers may be unable to escape abusive employers.

Working directly with victims, Hope for Justice were able to provide briefings for lawmakers, as the Bill took shape, on the most common and pressing issues for individuals trapped in slavery in our country.

Hope for Justice’s UK Legal Director, Phillipa Roberts, commented that, “Legislation has an important part to play in addressing any issue in society and this Act is a welcome improvement but the actions of agencies, organisations and individuals are equally important.Hope for Justice will continue training frontline professionals to identify trafficking and refer victims for help. Our specialist investigators will continue seeking out the most hidden victims”.

In the last week, Hope for Justice has undertaken the rescue of seven victims of human trafficking across the UK. A number of those cases were joint operations with local police.

Hope for Justice UK Director of Programmes, Allan Doherty commented, “We are delighted that the Modern Slavery Act has been granted Royal Assent and we look forward to working closely with the newly appointed Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to ensure the Act is fully implemented and further developed. We have met with him already on a number of occasions and are looking forward to hosting him at our Head Office later this summer.

We feel that whilst this Act is a momentous development much more needs to be and can be done especially around longer-term support for victims. We will be sharing our vision with the Commissioner and offering him our full support in putting victims at the centre of his strategy and seeing perpetrators identified and punished for their crimes”.

Hope for Justice has assisted over 200 victims of slavery since it began deploying teams of investigators to local offices known as Regional Investigative Hubs two years ago.

The original Act of Parliament to abolish the British slave trade passed on 25 March 1807. Championed by William Wilberforce, it was the culmination of one of the most successful public campaigns in history. The Modern Slavery Bill passed the House of Lords yesterday – 25 March 2015 – on the anniversary of Wilberforce’s Act, before receiving Royal Assent today; a fitting reminder that the work of abolition is ongoing.




Modern Slavery Act receives Royal Assent

Thursday 26 March 2015


The landmark Modern Slavery Act has today received Royal Assent and will be one of the final pieces of legislation added to the statute books by the coalition government.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is unique within Europe and one of the first pieces of legislation globally to focus on modern slavery and human trafficking.


The Act contains a package of legal reforms designed to improve the response of law enforcement and ensure that victims receive best practice protection and support. These include:

• Increasing the maximum sentence available for the most serious offenders from 14 years to life imprisonment;

• Ensuring that perpetrators convicted of slavery or trafficking face the toughest asset confiscation regime;

• Consolidating and simplifying existing modern slavery offences into one Act;

• Introducing Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders and Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders to restrict the activity of individuals where they pose a risk of causing harm; and

• Strengthening law enforcement powers at sea to close loopholes which can prevent the police and Border Force being able to act on board vessels at sea.

• Creating a statutory defence for victims of modern slavery so that they are not inappropriately criminalised;

• Giving the courts new powers to order perpetrators of slavery and trafficking to pay Reparation Orders to their victims;
~ Providing for child advocates to support child victims of trafficking;
~ Extending special measures so that all victims of modern slavery can be supported through the criminal justice process;

• Providing statutory guidance on victim identification and victim services, including an enabling power to put the relevant processes on a statutory basis; and
~ Introducing protections for victims of abuse on an overseas domestic workers visa.

An additional key provision of the Modern Slavery Act is the creation of an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner with a UK wide remit.

Kevin Hyland OBE is the first UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, as appointed by the Home Secretary Theresa May. In his new capacity Mr Hyland will spearhead the UK’s fight against modern slavery, with a concerted focus on strengthening law enforcement efforts in the UK and internationally and helping to ensure that public authorities identify and support slavery victims effectively. 

Prior to undertaking this role, Mr Hyland acted as the operational lead for the Metropolitan Police’s Human Trafficking Unit. He has over 30 years experience investigating organised crime and has been successful in securing convictions in some of the most challenging cases of slavery and trafficking including cases of child trafficking and others dating back more than a decade. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Santa Marta Group, a high-level strategic partnership between international law enforcement agencies, the Catholic Church and civil society. He remains a member of this group and continues to support a number of anti-slavery projects and charities.

The newly appointed Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland OBE said:

Through the passing of the Modern Slavery Act the UK has the opportunity to once again lead the fight against this cruel trade in human life. But we must be clear that this is just the first step. My role has been created to spearhead the UK’s response both domestically and internationally and to ensure agencies use the new legislation to its full potential, whilst crucially also calling to account those that fail to deliver.

“I will be working in close partnership with statutory bodies and civil society groups to both strengthen efforts to pursue and prosecute traffickers and slave drivers and to ensure that the needs of victims are met in all circumstances. A key focus must also be on more effective measures to prevent these crimes from ever occurring in the first place. I aim to achieve this through working closely with communities across the UK as well driving more intelligent upstream activity in the source countries from where large numbers of women, men and children are trafficked to this country.”