Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery

25 Jan 2024

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This informal CPD article, ‘Modern Slavery‘, was provided by Peel Recruitment & Training Solutions, who provide specialist bespoke recruitment, training and interpreter solutions to the Law Enforcement arena. They bring together the expertise and experience needed to support organisations.

When giving thought to slavery many people visualise pictures in their minds eye of the slave trade back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Pictures of ships transporting kidnapped men, women and children in shackles across the Atlantic Ocean to slavery working in the cotton field in the east coast states of America and Caribbean countries. For many, Slavery was confined to the history books. How wrong could this be!

Understanding the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015

In 2015 the then UK Home Secretary, Theresa May M.P. championed the case for the introduction of new slavery legislation, the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the first since 1833 and the Slavery Abolition Act of that year.

The Modern Slavery ‘bill’ was introduced to the House of Commons in draft form in October 2013 by James Brokenshire M.P., Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime and Security and received Royal Assent and became law on 26 March 2015(1) and applies through-out England and Wales, with some provisions applicable in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland have additional legislation including the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 includes provisions to:

  • consolidate and simplify existing offences relating to exploitation and trafficking into a single act
  • create an independent anti-slavery commissioner to improve and better coordinate the response to modern slavery
  • introduce a defence for victims of slavery and trafficking
  • require businesses over a certain size to disclose each year what action they have taken to ensure there is no modern slavery in their business or supply chains

The act created offences relating to slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour (section 1) and human trafficking (section 2). Any person who is found guilty of an offence under section 1 or 2 may, on conviction on indictment at the Crown Court before a Judge and Jury, go to prison for life; or if they were convicted at a Magistrates Court go to prison for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine or both.

Legal defence for victims of modern slavery

The Act created a new national role of Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner whose job it is to advise Government, ensure modern slavery issues are tackled in a coordinated and effective way and to publish an annual report.

The first commissioner was a former police officer and head of the London Metropolitan Police Human Trafficking Unit, Kevin Hyland who was appointed in November 2014, initially as 'designate' Commissioner and then full commissioner in March 2015. In May 2019 Dame Sara Thornton a former Chief Constable and Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council was appointed as commissioner and served for a period of 2 years and 11 months until April 2022. The position was left vacant until December 2023 when the current commissioner Eleanor Lyons took up the post. Eleanor Lyons was the former Deputy Children’s Commissioner and a Special Adviser to the Prime Minister, Defence Secretary and Chief Whip. The last Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s annual report was presented to Parliament and published in April 2022 by Sara Thornton before leaving her position.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 under section 45 has created a specific legal defence for victims of modern slavery or human trafficking who committed a criminal offence as a result of their exploitation123. The defence requires that the person was compelled to act in the way they did and had no realistic alternative. The defence has been used in cases were victims of modern slavery or human trafficking such as children or some vulnerable adults were caught up and exploited as part of a ‘county lines’ operation into carrying drugs by violent members of organised crime gangs and groups.

Importance of the Modern Slavery Act for Organisations

The Act also, under section 54 (Transparency in Supply Chains), requires certain commercial organisations to publish an annual statement setting out the steps they take to prevent modern slavery in their business and their supply chains. A commercial organisation is required to publish an annual statement if, it is a ‘body corporate’ or a partnership, wherever incorporated or formed, it carries on a business, or part of a business, in the UK and supplies goods or services and has an annual turnover of £36 million or more. Published statements can be found on the individual company’s website or via a Government website, ‘Find a modern slavery statement’ (2).

Any organisation who may be at risk of modern slavery or human trafficking should consider training staff in what modern slavery is, how to spot the signs and indicators and what to do if they have concerns. Some staff should receive additional training as designated leads to help and support staff and the organisation as a whole. Specialist training should also be provided to staff in certain organisations to act as ‘First responders’ whose job is to refer potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking through the National Referral Mechanism (or NRM) to the appropriate government body (known as a competent authority) for specialist support.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Peel Recruitment & Training Solutions, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.




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For more information from Peel Recruitment & Training Solutions, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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