Following on from our last blog on the subject, we bring you a specific update regarding human trafficking in Scotland. The Scottish Parliament recently approved the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill. Under the bill the Scottish government is under a duty to develop and maintain a “Scottish Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy” in conjunction with other interested parties.
This bill is said to “clarify” criminal law by introducing a new single human trafficking offence as well as guaranteeing support and assistance for victims. Furthermore, under the bill, traffickers could face life in prison.
In some cases, those who are caught trafficking are forced to commit the crime by others who, some may think, are more culpable. There may be some who find it peculiar that people forced to commit a crime should face prosecution. The bill, however, sets out how such matters should be handled and prosecuted. In other words, how the victims of trafficking who are forced to commit crime as a “direct result” of their victim status should be prosecuted.
With regard to victims, the bill states that the Lord Advocate “must issue and publish instructions about the prosecution” of a potential human trafficking victim. Such instruction must “include factors to be taken into account or steps to be taken by the prosecutor when deciding whether to prosecute”.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Victims of human trafficking and exploitation can face horrendous suffering and there is no place for it in modern society.
“That is why I am delighted that the new laws introduced by this government will protect those subjected to these terrible crimes while ensuring those who seek to peddle human misery face the toughest possible penalties.
“Scotland’s law enforcement agencies now have greater tools in their armoury to bring those responsible for human trafficking and exploitation to justice.
“Previously, criminal law against trafficking and exploitation was spread across different legislation but our new law will provide consistency and give our police and prosecutors a clearer set of guidelines around how to track down and prosecute criminals.”
Mr Matheson added: “We know, however, that legislation alone will not help to identify potential victims. That’s why, alongside these new laws, we’re also developing a Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy and building on the work already undertaken to increase public awareness, training for front-line staff and engagement with businesses to help spot the signs of potential trafficking and exploitation.
“Ultimately, our collective efforts are sending a strong signal that Scotland is a hostile place for those who seek to peddle human misery. We simply will not tolerate the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable adults and children in this country.”
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