Better victim care makes trafficker convictions more likely
Hope for Justice has welcomed the recommendations of a new report examining how the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has responded to the landmark Modern Slavery Act 2015.
The report came from Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI), and alongside key recommendations relating to a new national strategy and standardising response structures and processes nationwide, the authors also say that “more could be done to support victims” during the criminal justice process.
Phillipa Roberts, Director of Legal Policy at Hope for Justice, said: “Hope for Justice welcomes this report and is in agreement with the main recommendations.
“We would however like to see greater emphasis on supporting and protecting victims long term. They are often key prosecution witnesses, and without their courage in coming forward and bravery in giving evidence, many trafficking prosecutions would not be successful.”
Hope for Justice has found that many victims are deeply traumatised and fearful at the time of rescue, and often initially refuse to engage with police or the criminal justice process. They are scared of retribution from the traffickers against themselves or their families, and have often suffered months or years of threats and physical or psychological control; others just want to leave the whole experience behind them.
But with tailored, personalised support post-rescue, strong advocacy on their behalf from our specialist team, and enough time in safety away from the perpetrators, many victims supported by Hope for Justice come to see the value in justice being done and courageously decide to give evidence and act as witnesses against their traffickers in court.
Hope for Justice CEO Ben Cooley said: “Police forces and other agencies increasingly recognise that improved victim care of the kind we offer is key in improving conviction rates.”
Full news report from the HMSPSI reproduced below:
A report from HMCPSI into the CPS response to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 has found that examples of good practice need to be used to develop an overarching national strategy to tackle this complex crime.
The UK Government has just committed a £40m aid package to address slavery and trafficking internationally aimed at tackling the source of modern slavery in the UK. The HMCPSI review assesses the national, international and local Area response of the CPS in terms of strategic leadership, governance and joint working related to prosecution of modern slavery. It also considers the effectiveness of operational practice in prosecuting or disrupting criminality, and providing support to victims and witnesses. Inspectors also assessed progress against the recommendations in the Modern Slavery Act Review.
Good practice was identified in Wales, where there is a Casework Review Group and strategic delivery plan. Its Anti-Slavery Leadership Group provides direction as well as raises awareness, as part of the commitment of the Welsh Government. Further examples of good practice were found in the West Midlands which used prevention orders and risk orders in a case that was being investigated but had yet to be charged. This protected victims and potential victims from further harm.
The main recommendations of the report are for the CPS to review where modern slavery and human trafficking sit strategically and ensure that there is an overarching framework to lead, assure and provide oversight. The review found that there is a crucial need for a more formal structure nationwide. Although the CPS is working closely with other UK prosecuting authorities and there is a significant amount of cross-Government collaboration, there is no clear, overarching framework for all the crime types and it is not treated as a single body of work. This leads to a lack of clarity and consistency. Modern slavery and human trafficking casework needs a framework for leadership, assurance and oversight akin to that of Violence against Women and Girls, either within the existing structures or a separate parallel regime.
The review also found that while special measures have been extended to all victims of trafficking and slavery, including screening them from defendants in court and allowing them to give evidence via a live link, more could be done to support victims. Other initiatives to help victims that are also being rolled out include the use of pre-recorded cross-examination.
Commenting on the report, Chief Inspector Kevin McGinty (pictured) said: “There has been much laudable work done to address the recommendations of the Modern Slavery Act Review in 2016 but more needs to be done. There needs to be a proper framework for leadership, assurance and oversight and a consistent programme of training needs to be rolled out across the board. These crimes affect some of the most vulnerable members of society and there is more that could be done to support them. There should be a more consistent approach to the vulnerabilities of victims and the way that they are safeguarded and supported.”
Notes to editors
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 consolidates existing offences of human trafficking and slavery and encompasses trafficking for all forms of exploitation. Modern slavery exists when individuals are exploited for little or no pay. Exploitation includes, but is not limited to, forced or bonded labour, sexual exploitation, forced criminality, domestic servitude and the removal of organs.
HMCPSI visited six CPS Areas and interviewed operational staff in the Complex Casework Units and Violence against Women and Girls leads, as well as thematic leads within police forces. Inspectors also spoke to staff at CPS Headquarters, stakeholders and third sector agencies. They did not look at individual cases.