Changes to Met policing raise concerns for trafficking victims

1 April 2010

Anti-Slavery International is concerned that changes to the structure of London’s Metropolitan Police will result in less protection for trafficking victims.

Today, the highly successful but now disbanded Met Police Human Trafficking team hands responsibility on the issue of trafficking over to the SCD9 Human Exploitation and Organised Crime. Only last week (23 March 2010), two traffickers arrested by the Human Trafficking Team were sentenced to a total of sixteen years in prison.

Anti-Slavery International is concerned that the decision to relegate trafficking from the responsibility of a specialist team to that of a unit also in charge of policing organised immigration crime, prostitution, pornography, casinos and club violence, will inevitably result in trafficking becoming less of a priority.

Anti-Slavery International is also concerned that this restructuring has resulted in a loss of expertise on the complex issue of trafficking.

The changes to the MET structure come as the new laws to protect people from slavery come into effect on 6 April 2010. The new offence of holding another person in slavery or servitude, or requiring another person to perform forced or compulsory labour, is set out in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Those found guilty face a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International, said: “The decision to make forced labour and servitude criminal offences in the UK will help protect the most vulnerable workers from slavery in the factories, farms and even homes of this country.

“However, while Parliament has now provided clear guidance to law-enforcement and prosecutors on society’s expectations of how they should act against perpetrators of slavery, we are concerned that the same priority has not been met by the London Met Police, who have relegated the issue to a Unit already burdened with the task of policing many other serious crimes.”