More needs to be done to determine scale of modern slavery

Renewed calls have been made for improved data to measure the prevalence of modern slavery in the UK.

Today the Office for National Statistics has published its first article on this subject, with their report underlining the need for better recording and sharing of statistics to highlight the full scale of this hidden crime.

Hope for Justice agrees that more needs to be done to expose the true extent of this complex issue.

A member of staff at the global anti-slavery charity said: “Modern slavery is regarded as a largely hidden crime because victims are often too traumatised or too fearful of authority to report their exploitation, or do not identify themselves as victims.”

Traditional methods of measuring crime, such as victim surveys and police records, have proven inadequate in determining the scale of this injustice.

There is also currently no definitive source of data to accurately count the number of victims of modern slavery in the UK.

Helen Ross, Centre for Crime and Justice, Office for National Statistics, said: “While there is no one source or method available which accurately quantifies the number of victims in the UK, evidence suggests there have been improvements in identification since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015. Yet this is only part of the story, as many cases remain hidden and unreported.”

The most reliable global figures on the number of victims of modern slavery comes from the International Labour Organization. Its current estimate is that there are 40.3 million people in forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude or in forced marriages.

In the UK, work by the Home Office Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Bernard Silverman, has estimated that in 2013 there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery. However, in August 2017, the National Crime Agency suggested that figure was too low and that there are actually “tens of thousands” of victims.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, the National Police Chiefs Council lead on modern slavery, said: “Modern slavery can be hard to identify and track but recent years have seen many agencies, police amongst them, build a far greater understanding of the threat and how to respond to it.

“We welcome any further effort to share knowledge and better target the partnership work needed to prevent this awful crime from taking place.”

The Chief Constable said that police have seen an almost ten-fold increase in the number of live police investigations into modern slavery.

Hope for Justice works closely with police and law enforcement on investigations and prosecutions in the UK and has been invited to play a part in victim reception during large raids. The charity worked alongside West Midlands Police to help tear down the criminal network responsible for the largest trafficking case in UK history.