On 19th October 2020, the Home Office published its annual report on modern slavery, outlining the scale of modern slavery in the UK and how the UK has responded to this threat over the last 12 months. It acknowledges the ongoing challenge of ascertaining the exact number of people trapped in modern slavery. Nevertheless, the available data and analysis makes sobering reading.
For example, the number of NRM referrals has increased by 52 per cent from 6,986 referrals in 2018 to 10,627 in 2019. While this is not a good estimate of overall prevalence, it does provide a snapshot of known victims and reveals, again, year-on-year growth.
Similarly, if you consider Police Recorded Crime, it shows a substantial rise. In the year to March 2020, there were 7,779 modern slavery crimes recorded by the police, a 59 per cent increase from 4,897 in the year to March 2019. The force recording most modern slavery crimes was the Metropolitan Police, accounting for 30 per cent (2,334) of all crimes. This was followed by West Midlands Police and West Yorkshire Police. The figures exclude Greater Manchester Police, who were unable to supply data due to the implementation of a new IT system.
In the last year, there has also been an increase in case referrals to the CPS, including cases referred for early investigative advice, which have resulted in charge. In total, 322 defendants investigated for modern slavery offences were referred by the police and a legal decision was provided during 2019, of which 239 defendants were charged by the CPS.
While the number of victims in the NRM or cases referred to the CPS are just the tip of the iceberg, they are a good indicator and suggest that modern slavery is growing in scale.
The report explains the Home Office’s strategy of Pursue, Prevent, Protect and its commitment to victim identification and support and responding internationally to modern slavery and encouraging upstream prevention. It is important reading for anyone interested in fighting modern slavery but sadly shows there is still a long way to go.