Scottish Government launches human trafficking and exploitation strategy
Human trafficking - Image credit: British Red Cross
The Scottish Government has launched a strategy to train professionals to spot the signs of human trafficking and provide new powers to disrupt trafficking activity.
The trafficking and exploitation strategy aims to identify and support victims, identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity and to address the conditions that lead to trafficking and exploitation.
It also highlights the need to better publicise support for victims and commits to a campaign to raise awareness among the public.
It follows the passing of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 by the Scottish Parliament in 2015, which created a single offence of trafficking and raised the maximum sentence to life imprisonment.
The act required the Scottish Government to produce a strategy within three years.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said: “Developing the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy has included listening to victims themselves, who have provided a unique insight into the physical and psychological damage caused by trafficking.
“We have emphasised the need to let people know that there is support available for victims, wherever they are recovered in Scotland.
“Exposing and eradicating these horrific crimes remain high on the agenda, and following the passing of legislation to create an offence of human trafficking with a possible life sentence attached, I am pleased that Police Scotland and the Crown Office will be able apply for new orders to disrupt traffickers’ activity.
“Better awareness among the general public and training for professionals is key to this work, which will be taken forward with a range of partners, including the Police, Crown and third sector.
“The trafficking and exploitation of adults and children is happening in Scotland today and we all have a role in bringing it to an end.
“Today’s strategy is the blueprint towards realising that aim and eliminating such appalling activity in Scotland.”
Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC added: “We welcome the publication of the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy.
“Human trafficking is a serious and complex crime that presents unique challenges to investigators and prosecutors.
“This strategy will work hand in hand with the tools we have at our disposal to tackle this abhorrent trade, which include the offences under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015.
“Scotland is a country that is hostile to this kind of exploitation and Prosecutors, working with Police Scotland and other law enforcement partners, will play their part in ensuring victims of this crime are protected and have the support they need.”
Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston of Police Scotland's Human Trafficking Unit highlighted that public awareness was essential because much trafficking activity is hidden.
He said: “Trafficking is often a hidden crime, happening behind closed doors to people who often don’t realise that they are being exploited or that they are victims of traffickers.
“Communities are key in helping us identify people who may be the victims of trafficking and exploitation.
“We are asking people to be aware and to report to us or our partners if they suspect someone may be the victim of traffickers.”