Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Although it is well-hidden, slavery is not a thing of the past: the Home Office estimates that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK in 2013. The number of potential victims and offenders coming to light is increasing, and the coming into force of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 means that there is now a much broader set of measures to tackle modern slavery and support victims.

Modern slavery includes human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. It encompasses a wide range of circumstances, including:

  • slavery or practices similar to slavery, for example if someone is owned or controlled by an 'employer', treated as a commodity or bought and sold as 'property', and/or physically constrained or has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement
  • forced labour or securing services by force, threats or deception
  • domestic servitude
  • the sexual exploitation of adults
  • the trafficking of adults into conditions of labour exploitation
  • the trafficking of children or vulnerable adults (e.g. into conditions of sexual, labour or criminal exploitation)
  • forced marriage
  • forced begging
  • organ or tissue harvesting

Steps can be taken by both the state and the individual affected. Offenders should be prosecuted and the criminal courts can order them to pay compensation to victims. The state can also apply for slavery and trafficking prevention or risk orders, to try to prevent offences before they happen. The state is under an active duty to seek to identify victims and potential victims and to protect them. Where modern slavery has happened, the state is under a duty to investigate and provide support. This includes, for example, police forces and the Home Office.  Where things go wrong you can go to court to force the state to meet its duties, get a declaration that your human rights have been breached and get compensation.

Victims of modern slavery can also seek to hold the perpetrators themselves accountable, whether or not they have been criminally prosecuted, by bringing damages and/or employment claims. As a result of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and a judicial review brought by the charity ATLEU, legal aid is available for such claims.

If you or a loved one who has passed away has been the victim of modern slavery, get in touch with the Civil Liberties team to discuss how we may be able to help.

Call us on 020 3811 3123 or make an enquiry online.


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