'12 Years A Slave' director Steve McQueen calls upon Government to beef up Anti-Slavery Bill

 

Deputy Political Editor

Steve McQueen, the Oscar-winning director of 12 Years A Slave, has called for Theresa May’s plans for an overhaul of laws against people-trafficking and forced labour to be toughened to result in more convictions.

The Home Secretary’s proposals for a wide-ranging Anti-Slavery Bill, which will bring in a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for offenders, will be set out in the Queen’s Speech in June.

A committee of parliamentarians charged with scrutinising the measure backs the principle of the moves, but argued they needed to be simplified and strengthened to boost the number of prosecutions of modern-day slavemasters.

It received the backing of Mr McQueen, whose film depicting a freeborn man’s kidnap and sale into slavery in 1841 won the Best Picture award at this year’s Oscar ceremony.

He said: “There is much in the history of the United Kingdom in relation to slavery that our country should be ashamed of. But one thing that all British people can be justifiably proud is of our anti-slavery tradition stretching back to people such as Equiano, Clarkson, Wilberforce.”

Mr McQueen said the report’s authors stood in that tradition and praised their recommendations as “humane and principled”.

He added: “More than that, they have grasped the complexity of contemporary trafficking and forced labour in the United Kingdom and have set forth clearly the fundamentals of what is necessary to tackle it effectively.”

Several thousand adults and children – two thirds of whom are female – are believed to be held in virtual slavery across the United Kingdom. Thousands are forced into prostitution, including British children who are groomed, abducted and compelled to have sex.

Unicef UK says at least 10 youngsters are smuggled into the country every week and yet more than nine in 10 Britons do not regard the UK as a child trafficking hotspot.

Other victims are put to work in factories or farms or in domestic servitude.

The committee called for Mrs May’s Bill to be more focused on the victims of slavery, in particular youngsters who fall into the clutches of traffickers and pimps.

Under her plans, all the existing anti-slavery measures will be incorporated in one wide-ranging Bill.

But the committee warned that, as drafted, it would do little to protect victims or to tackle the problems in securing the convictions of traffickers and slavemasters.

It called for the creation of specific offences of exploiting and trafficking a child and for a statutory system of children’s advocates to be established.

Moves to seize the illicit gains from modern slavery should be bolstered and victims given immunity from prosecution for crimes they were forced to commit while they were enslaved, the committee said.

Its chairman, Frank Field, said: “The shift to the focus on victims is not only the morally right thing to do in and of itself, it is essential if we are to get the prosecutions necessary to try to end this evil.

“We must conclude that for parts of this Bill, amendments will not be sufficient to make good, workable, effective legislation. Some parts of it need a rewrite.

“This is ground-breaking legislation that will influence law and the fight against modern slavery around the globe. The world is watching: we have to get this right.”

Karen Bradley, the minister for slavery, said the Home Office would study the recommendations very carefully. She said: “The Home Secretary and I gave evidence to the committee and we both appreciate the shared commitment to legislate this Parliament to tackle this appalling crime.” 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders