The report from from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found the victims are being let down at every stage, with “significant failings” in the ability of the police to identify victims of modern slavery or to take appropriate steps.
Astonishingly, senior officers in the forces are said to be reluctant to “turn over the stone” of modern slavery for fear of the potential demand. Instead, cases are being shelved prematurely, sometimes without even speaking to victims or witnesses.
Today’s report comes just a week after figures published by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner showing that while police recorded crimes for modern slavery skyrocketed by 260% between 2015 and 2016, the number of people prosecuted in England and Wales actually went down over the same period.
The watchdog confirmed what many advocates for improved victim protection fear that there is a tendency in some forces to refer victims without legal status in the UK to immigration authorities rather than investigate the crimes to which victims have been subjected.
The report highlights that many of the failings reflect deficiencies in basic policing practice (such as following evidential leads, governance and oversight).
Shanta Martin a partner at the law firm Leigh Day and a specialist in civil claims on behalf of victims of modern slavery said:
“These reports reflect our own experiences when working with people directly affected by these crimes.Victims are often ignored and left fearful of the response from the police. Even in cases where survivors assist the police and there is substantial evidence of wrongdoing, often no action is taken.
“The police and Crown Prosecution Service need to make fundamental changes to the way they approach these crimes. There are millions of people affected worldwide by modern slavery, including many thousands in Britain. Victims of these crimes should be given the highest priority and cases prosecuted, not swept under the carpet.”