Hope for Justice backs proposed law increasing support for slavery victims

Hope for Justice in the UK has offered its strong backing for the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, which recently got its Second Reading in the House of Lords. The proposed legislation has been described by its champion, Lord McColl, as “an essential addition to the Modern Slavery Act”.

Its main effects would be to put into law victims’ entitlement to support during the 45-day ‘reflection and recovery period’, during which the authorities weigh up the evidence on whether there are conclusive grounds to say someone is a victim of modern slavery. The new law would also create a ​statutory duty to provide confirmed victims of modern slavery with ongoing support and leave to remain for a period of 12 months.

Phillipa Roberts

Hope for Justice’s Director of Legal Policy, Phillipa Roberts, spoke at a reception event in the Lords on September 6 in support of the Bill. She said: “Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill would go a long way in ensuring that England and Wales complies with its legal obligations to support and protect victims; and in doing so would facilitate the recovery and integration of victims, increasing prosecutions and making the UK a hostile environment for those who exploit.”

Lord McColl has noted how Home Secretary Amber Rudd has acknowledged some of the key problems herself. She wrote in April: “We must be better at getting immediate support to victims when they are at their most vulnerable. Otherwise they just slip through the net, to be abused all over again, and we lose any opportunity to gain information on the criminals who exploited them in the first place…We also want to make sure that victims are able to rebuild their lives. Our aspiration to help these people is in the right place – but at present, the provision of support may yet not be.”

More support for victims will increase conviction rates of traffickers

Lord McColl said at the Bill’s Second Reading on September 8th: “Victims are vulnerable, often fearful of reprisals from their traffickers and anxious about the future. If they are not given guarantees of housing and food, and access to other support, how can we expect them to feel secure enough to provide information about the people who abuse them? Yet without their input, it may be impossible to bring successful prosecutions against the criminals who perpetrate these horrible crimes.”

The Bill has already received strong support from other members of the House of Lords and other anti-trafficking NGOs. Its next step is to be considered in Committee in the Lords, before going to the Commons for MPs to consider.

Hope for Justice’s Phillipa Roberts said: “In our experience of providing advocacy to victims, unless long-term safety and stability (including housing and support) can be achieved, victims cannot make informed choices about whether to cooperate with a criminal investigation or pursue civil compensation, both of which are essential to perpetrator accountability. Additionally, victims often require far longer than 45 days to feel safe and make such decisions. Nor can victims easily cooperate with these processes if rendered destitute and homeless…In contrast, well-supported victims are able to give their best evidence at court, enhancing conviction rates. Such issues could be alleviated by ongoing and clear support provision for victims encapsulated in this Bill.”

You can read the full debate on the new Bill and its effects here or read Hope for Justice’s full briefing document below.