Government’s Modern Slavery Bill will ‘fail victims and spare criminals’

Experts say May’s ‘vanity project’ does nothing for trafficked people whose evidence will be vital

Social Affairs Correspondent

The Government’s Modern Slavery Bill is being rushed through Parliament without proper consultation and will offer almost no help to the victims of the crime, sources close to the process have told The Independent on Sunday.

Touted as a historic moment in the fight against human trafficking, a draft of the Bill will be unveiled by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, on Monday, the day an evidence ¬review is published. The timing means the draft will almost certainly not ¬include the recommendations made in the review, which has been led by the Labour MP Frank Field.

Experts argue that the process has been rushed through, with only the briefest of discussions with lawyers and is a “vanity project” for Mrs May. Mr Field’s researchers are understood to have been working through the night to get the report ready for Monday, so those who drew up the Bill are unlikely to have seen its final version.

Christine Beddoe, a consultant on tackling the crime, said the speeded- up handling of the legislation had been “very odd”. She added: “This has all happened so fast that the consultation hasn’t been taken into account prior to drafting the Bill.”

According to an insider, the Bill had to be speeded up in order to get it into the Queen’s Speech in May.

Campaigners had recommended that the Bill enshrined better victim support and protection, but this is not expected to feature in the draft. Measures which had been hoped for included appointing guardians to help child victims of trafficking and extending the support available to victims beyond the 45 days allotted to process their case. 

Instead, the Bill will tidy up existing legislation, introduce tougher sentences, and appoint an Anti—Slavery Commissioner, whose responsibilities are still vague. It will also propose trafficking prevention orders, measures intended to restrict the activity of offenders after release.

Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, said: “ Victim protection has to be central in any realistic strategy to address trafficking and forced labour within the UK. Without that, you doubly victimise people, first by their traffickers and then by the authorities meant to ¬protect them. On top of that, you’ll end up with insufficient witnesses to carry prosecutions.”

Successful prosecutions for trafficking are still extremely rare; in 2012, only 39 people were prosecuted for trafficking-related offences. ¬Experts say that better support for victims is needed to bring these numbers up, rather than superficial changes to legislation.

A senior source in a leading human trafficking charity said that victim protection proposals had been -ignored due to concerns that the Government would be seen as nice to immigrants.

“The evidence gathered by Frank Field has not been listened to,” the source said. “There are no victim protection measures at all. My ¬assessment is that Theresa May doesn’t give a rat’s arse about slavery, but it’s in the news and if she can present herself as the next [William] Wilberforce, then she can have a go against Cameron. She’s not putting victim protection in this because that’s nice for Johnny foreigner.”

The source said they thought major amendments to add in more for victims were unlikely: “The line the Government keeps putting out is ‘no amendments, or it won’t go through’.”

Anthony Steen, the Home Secretary’s special envoy for human trafficking, has been consulted on the Bill. He called it a “ marvellous start”, but expressed reservations about its substance.

“The draft Bill is not going to be in itself a world trailblazer. It’s going to be a somewhat muted and limited Bill, but it is moving in the right ¬direction and it is committed to being in the Queen’s Speech.” He added: “This is an opportunity of a lifetime. We want to be a world leader and we won’t be unless we put the flesh on [the bones of the Bill].”

Mr Steen, who also chairs the Human Trafficking Foundation, said he wanted to make sure that better provision for victims was added into the Bill at a later date. “The best way to catch traffickers is by actually making victims feel safe,” he said.

“There’s no aftercare provision at all; after 45 days people are thrown on to the street. That’s what worries me most. I’m in touch with five victims who have got nowhere to go for Christmas. They’ve got nobody they can trust to go to.”

Giving police incentives to prioritise the crime is also essential to raising convictions, according to Mr Steen. ”Police find this not worth the candle,” he said, “and if they haven’t got an incentive to nail traffickers they probably won’t.”

Security Minister James Brokenshire said: “The Home Secretary and Security Minister have made clear a personal commitment to ending modern slavery. We need to make the Bill as focused and targeted as possible so that we have the best chance of making it law by the end of this Parliament. Legislation is only part of the answer to what is a complex and multi-faceted problem – the important thing is to get stronger laws passed that future governments and parliaments can then build on.”

“The Home Secretary and Security Minister have made clear a personal commitment to ending modern slavery. We need to make the Bill as focused and targeted as possible so that we have the best chance of making it law by the end of this Parliament. Legislation is only part of the answer to what is a complex and multi-faceted problem – the important thing is to get stronger laws passed that future governments and parliaments can then build on.”

Mr Brokenshire added: “The best way to both protect and reduce the number of victims is to disrupt and imprison the organised criminal gangs that lie behind the majority of the modern slave trade. The Bill will send the clearest possible message: if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will prosecuted and you will be locked up.”

Video: Theresa May on tackling slavery in the UK

By default player size is set to 420 x 315px. But you can resize player width and height once you get the player code using player params.
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
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: Sales Negotiator - OTE £24,000

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic individual is r...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - West Midlands - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - Yorkshire & Humber - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Embedded Linux Engineer - C / C++

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A well funded smart home compan...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?