MP Frank Field: 'moral duty to help victims of modern slavery'

Wirral Globe - 20 Mar 2019
A WIRRAL MP has said there is a "moral duty'"to help victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.

Frank Field's comments follow publication of an independent review on the legal application of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

It urges courts to keep compensation for victims high on their agenda and on law enforcement to do everything in their power to identify and freeze a suspect's assets to make funds available for victims' compensation.

The Birkenhead MP, who was review chairman, said: "This is an important report that begins to highlight the need to support victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.

"Not only is it our moral duty to give them the help they need to reintegrate into society, but it can also help the CPS secure prosecutions of those guilty of these crimes”.

Under the 2015 Act, courts could make reparation orders against someone convicted of trafficking or enslaving another, requiring them to pay damages to their victims for exploitation and degradation suffered.

The review found that between the act coming into force and December 2017, no such orders have been made.

It also heard that financial investigations into modern slavery cases were not consistently undertaken and urged for this to become a priority in order to create a disincentive to carrying out these crimes.

Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act provides a statutory defence for victims who were compelled to carry out certain criminal offences as a result of their exploitation.

However, the Independent Review has learned that victims continue to be prosecuted for offences they were forced to commit by their traffickers

As a result, the review argues it is essential for this defence to be considered whenever working with a victim of trafficking or modern slavery.

The review of the Act was announced in July last year in an effort to make the existing legislation more effective.

Mr Field, Maria Miller and Baroness Butler-Sloss were appointed as reviewers.

The report on the legal application of the Act is the fourth produced by the review, with the full report due to be handed to the Home Secretary at the end of this month.

Ms Miller said: "This evidence based review demonstrates how finding solutions to the appalling abuses of modern slavery still commands cross-party support.

"At a time when Parliament is so divided, the need for effective action in this area still unites Parliamentarians."

Baroness Butler-Sloss said: "We need to make sure that the law does not only work in theory but also in practice.

"We hope our report will raise awareness among judges and lawyers about best practice when it comes to prosecuting cases of modern slavery and human trafficking".