New statutory duty to report human trafficking could support more vulnerable people
Human trafficking - Image credit: British Red Cross
A new statutory duty to report suspected cases of human trafficking could support more vulnerable people, justice secretary Humza Yousaf has said.
The Scottish Government is seeking views on plans to introduce a legal duty on Scottish public authorities to notify Police Scotland about suspected victims of human trafficking and exploitation.
Reports made under the duty will help to identify and support victims, target perpetrators and disrupt their activity and address conditions that lead to trafficking and exploitation.
It is proposed that the new duty would apply to local authorities, health boards, the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Information collected through the duty to notify will provide a more accurate picture of the scale and extent of trafficking in Scotland, the Scottish Government said.
This in turn will enable more effective targeting of both enforcement and support services.
Launching the consultation, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Human trafficking is a hidden and often complex crime meaning the true scale of the problem is unknown.
“Victims may be reluctant to acknowledge their own situation for reasons including fear of their traffickers, distrust in the authorities and a lack of awareness that there are agencies that can support them to safety and recovery.
“These plans will create a statutory duty on Scottish public authorities to ensure that the information obtained by Police Scotland is publicly available.
“This intelligence will ultimately help us to protect and support more vulnerable people.”
Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald, Police Scotland’s lead on crime and protection, said: “Victims of human trafficking are among the most vulnerable in our communities.
“Some may never come to the attention of police or may choose, for their own reasons, not to engage with a police investigation.
“The introduction of a duty to notify is a positive step which will help us work with other public services to further develop our collective approach to protecting survivors.
“It will also assist in helping victims to escape the clutches of traffickers, as we work to make Scotland a hostile environment for this type of inhumane criminality.”
Malcolm Wright, chief executive of NHS Scotland, said: “Victims of human trafficking may be deeply traumatised and distrustful of authorities which may affect their ability to seek help, support and treatment for any injuries they have sustained as a result of their situation.
“All clinical and non-clinical staff across the NHS in Scotland can play a pivotal role in identifying potential victims of human trafficking and exploitation that may otherwise go unnoticed or remain invisible.
“Through our commitment to supporting the health and well-being of Scotland’s people we all have a responsibility to share information with the appropriate authorities to support safeguarding and the reporting of crime.”