The Law Society has criticised a new bill aimed at tackling the issues of slavery and people trafficking, believing it to be insufficient. In particular, the Society claims that the bill is lacking in “clarity, precision and simplicity” and that it does not “safeguard victims effectively.”
The Law Society, who will be discussing the issue of trafficking at their upcoming human rights conference, addressed these concerns to a parliamentary committee following the second reading of the Modern Slavery Bill. Specifically, these opinions were contained within evidence which the Society submitted to a public bill committee which has been convened to consider the bill by the House of Commons.
The bill would, if passed, be one of the world’s first targeted attempts to address the issue of slavery and people trafficking in its modern form. It would also be the first bill of this kind introduced by any country in Europe. While a number of current offences exist which are applicable to issues of slavery, this bill would consolidate them into a dedicated, targeted set of legislation for tackling modern slavery. The bill also aims to establish an anti-slavery commissioner to lead dedicated efforts at combating this type of crime.
The Society has stressed that it fully supports the aims of the bill, but has concerns about the sufficiency of the way it currently sets out to achieve those aims. The key concern of the Society was the absence of adequate safeguards for those who have survived trafficking and slavery. In particular, it was felt that the bill needs to do more to protect children who have fallen victim to traffickers.
The Society also raised a number of other concerns about the bill, including the fact that they felt that the given offences were neither precise nor clear enough in the way they were defined. Many clauses, the Society believed, were unnecessarily complex and poorly aligned with international definitions of forced labour and trafficking. Furthermore, they feared that the current form of the bill would allow some related offences to slip through the net, or at least hinder effective law enforcement.
On top of this, the Society feared that the anti-slavery commissioner would lack effectiveness on account of not being independent of the Home Secretary. The Society also worried that the bill could leave traffickers and slave masters with the opportunity to avoid prosecution through “double criminality.” This requires that the crime be an offince in both the requiring and receiving countries.
President of the Law Society Andrew Caplen said: “We applaud the government for taking seriously the ongoing problem of modern slavery, and also their plans to address the issue, but have reservations about the effectiveness of the proposals.”
Caplen added that “With the British government leading the way on modern slavery legislation, it is of paramount importance that the bill safeguards victims effectively and sets an example in this field.”