Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
07 January 2015
MSPs back increased police powers to tackle human trafficking

MSPs back increased police powers to tackle human trafficking

Plans to extend police powers to pursue, board and detain ships suspected of being involved in human trafficking offences have been endorsed by MSPs.
Members of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee said the move, which is included in the Modern Slavery Bill at Westminster, was “sensible and appropriate”.
However, MSPs have stopped short of calling for a specific anti-slavery commissioner for Scotland, instead backing the creation of a UK-wide role.
The UK Modern Slavery Bill was introduced in the House of Commons last June with subsequent amendments applying to Scotland and therefore necessitating a legislative consent memorandum.
Under the proposed legislation, police officers working in Scotland will be allowed to stop, board, divert and detain ships in order to prevent, detect or investigate various slavery and human trafficking offences.
Police Scotland as well as National Crime Agency officers working north of the border will also be able to pursue ships into English, Welsh or Northern Irish waters.
The Bill also allows for the establishment of an independent anti-slavery commissioner to spearhead the UK’s fight against modern slavery and work closely with law enforcement agencies as well as other relevant bodies. 
Kevin Hyland, a former head of the Metropolitan Police human trafficking unit, was appointed to the role last November. 
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, told MSPs last month that a standalone Scottish commissioner “might not be advantageous” given they could be dealing with a “relatively small number of cases”.
“The Committee notes that the LCM seeks to provide consistency across the UK,” says its report, published today. “However, the Committee welcomes the Cabinet Secretary’s comments that Scottish Ministers will have a direct role in shaping the Scottish aspects of the Commissioner’s work.”
The committee has recommended that parliament now approves a legislative consent motion to be put forward by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government itself introduced the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill last month, which will see the creation of a single offence and the prospect of life imprisonment for individuals who carry out human trafficking. 

Latest figures released by the NCA found that the number of potential victims of human trafficking increased 22 per cent between 2012 and 2013, with 55 identified in Scotland.

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe



Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top