Law enforcement gather for human trafficking summit
Law enforcement agencies from across the UK and Ireland are to meet in Edinburgh next week to hammer out a cross-border agreement to combat human trafficking, Holyrood can reveal.
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC will be joined by directors of public prosecutions for England and Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at a summit to be held at the Scottish Parliament.
The National Crime Agency, Eurojust – the EU body that co-ordinates criminal investigations across EU countries – and various police forces throughout the UK and Ireland will also attend.
The summit, which is the first of its kind on this area of criminal activity, will result in a joint commitment to work more closely and share further information across borders, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) hopes.
In an exclusive interview with Holyrood, Mulholland said: “It is a recognition that human trafficking, firstly it happens in the shadows, it’s very difficult for law enforcement to penetrate, and secondly that there are no borders.
“The traditional jurisdictional way in which we dealt with crime just doesn’t apply to human trafficking. There are no borders and the people involved in it are pretty ruthless and cunning.
“What you need in order to properly combat it or even begin to start to combat it is sign up right across the piece in law enforcement and to work together. In order to facilitate that, rather than us Scots just working on our own with Police Scotland, I thought it would be a good idea if we brought everyone together.”
As well as a range of speakers, plenary sessions, both in private and in public, are planned on the day as prosecutors and the police seek out a better strategy of dealing with these cases.
“One of the things that I hope to get out of this is an agreement, a commitment to working together going forward, and I would hope that at the end of it, there will be a communiqué or a commitment to working together and meeting on a regular basis and sharing information,” added Mulholland.
“Now that is something that we have not done before so I think it’s excellent [and I’m] really pleased at the fact that everyone is coming for this summit. Going forward we’ll meet again in other places in the UK and we’ll see what we can do to try and move it forward and work across law enforcement, prosecutors, EuroJust, etc, and see what we can do to try and improve the strike rate.
“We’ve had successes in Scotland but I think it’s a valid criticism that cases are not numerous. Those that we have dealt with [led to] three significant convictions and we’ve used proceeds of crime legislation.
“But I know, I’ve been a prosecutor 32 years, I know it’s tip of the iceberg stuff, so you need to try and penetrate the rest of that iceberg and this is the purpose of what we’re trying to do.”
A report published by the NCA in recent weeks found that the number of potential victims of human trafficking increased 22 per cent between 2012 and 2013, with 55 identified in Scotland.
Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe