Slave traders to face life sentences in UK
Changes to law to be introduced later this year
Anti-slavery activists rally outside parliament yesterday in London. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.
Slave traders will face life sentences in the United Kingdom under changes to be introduced later this year.
Police and prosecutors have struggled to get prosecutions in a number of slavery cases because of difficulties with the existing law.
Throughout the UK last year almost 1,200 victims sought help from the authorities – an increase of a quarter in just 12 months.
Under the new law, those convicted of trafficking will, on release from jail, be restricted from owning companies, travelling freely, and working with women and children.
Home office minister James Brokenshire said the number of known victims are just a proportion of the total.
“Modern slavery is an appalling evil in our midst,” he said.
The Modern Slavery Bill will not be published until later this year, but it is expected to include stronger powers to curb those who profit from the labour of people held against their will.
A series of prosecutions have taken place in England over the last 18 months – including a number against Irish Travellers.
Generally, however, convictions on the main charges have been difficult to secure.
The Metropolitan Police’s human trafficking unit, which has seen its busiest year yet, said it had discovered 10-year-olds who were being held as slaves in London brothels.
Meanwhile, the Counter Human Trafficking Bureau, a London-based charity that helps victims, believes hundreds are brought to London and forced into slavery every day.
The Salvation Army said people were unaware that slavery was happening in their midst: “[It] is all around us,” said Major Anne Read.