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2017 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery

This report provides an overview of modern slavery in the UK and explains how the UK has responded to this threat over the last 12 months.

Assessment of Modern Slavery in the UK

Modern slavery is a highly complex and hidden crime which makes it challenging to accurately measure its prevalence. Modern slavery is an umbrella term that covers the offences of human trafficking and slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

The most robust current estimate of the scale of modern slavery in the UK was produced by the Home Office in 2014. The estimate suggested that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK in 2013. While this is only an estimate, it highlights the shocking extent of this crime and the scale of the challenge.

There are three main sources of data available on the potential scale of modern slavery in the UK:

  • Referrals of potential victims1 to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the UK’s identification and support system for victims of modern slavery. In 2016, there were 3,804 potential victims referred to the NRM (a 16% increase from 2015), of which around a third (1,277) were children.
  • Referrals of potential victims under the ‘duty to notify’ provision of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 which applies to England and Wales. Specified public bodies have a duty to notify the Government if they encounter an adult victim of modern slavery. In 2016, 782 potential adult victims were referred to the duty to notify, bringing the total number of potential victims identified in 2016 to 4,586.
  • The number of modern slavery crimes recorded by the police. In the year to March 2017, police in England and Wales recorded 2,255 modern slavery offences, a 159% increase on the previous year. In the year to March 2017, Police Scotland recorded 60 offences and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recorded 35 offences.

The UK’s Existing Response

The UK Government published a Modern Slavery Strategy in 2014, based on the ‘four Ps’ structure, which the Home Office also uses to tackle terrorism and serious and organised crime.

  • Pursue: Prosecuting and disrupting individuals and groups responsible for modern slavery.
  • Prevent: Preventing people from engaging in modern slavery.
  • Protect: Strengthening safeguards against modern slavery by protecting vulnerable people from exploitation and increasing awareness of and resilience against this crime.
  • Prepare: Reducing the harm caused by modern slavery through improved victim identification and enhanced support.

Modern slavery is a global issue and often involves victims and offenders moving across international borders. Therefore the UK Government’s activity to tackle modern slavery also includes a strong international focus.

The Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive use a different, equally valid strategic framework to organise their work. For the reader’s convenience, this report brigades actions by all jurisdictions under the ‘four Ps’ structure.