Modern Slavery Offences Consultation

Closes 15 Jan 2021

Opened 15 Oct 2020

Overview

This consultation seeks views on a draft of the first dedicated sentencing guidelines for offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. These draft guidelines can be found here:

https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/offences/crown-court/item/slavery-servitude-and-forced-or-compulsory-labour-human-trafficking-for-consultation-only

https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/offences/crown-court/item/committing-offence-with-intent-to-commit-a-human-trafficking-offence-for-consultation-only

https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/offences/crown-court/item/breach-of-a-slavery-and-trafficking-prevention-order-breach-of-a-slavery-and-trafficking-risk-order-for-consultation-only

There are currently no definitive guidelines for offences under the 2015 Act. The Act covers offences of holding someone in slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labour (section 1) and of trafficking for the purposes of exploitation (section 2). It also makes it an offence to commit an offence with the intention of committing a human trafficking offence. In addition to the offences, it provides for various orders, including reparation orders, and risk and prevention orders, breach of which is a criminal offence.

The offences in sections 1 and 2 of the Act cover a range of behaviour. A common feature of the offending is that victims are vulnerable in some way, and whilst some may be physically restrained or imprisoned, others will be subject to threats and treatment which, combined with their vulnerability, make escape from their position an impossibility. The offence of human trafficking (section 2) may involve recruiting, harbouring, receiving or transferring people cross-border, but not necessarily.

It is important to note that the apparent consent or willingness of the victim is not a defence to either offence.

Both offences can be committed on an organised, industrial scale with a significant commercial motivation, or they can be committed on a more limited, opportunistic or one-off basis.

Since the provisions relating to offences came into force in July 2015, the Act has been the subject of two reviews. The first of these reviews, looking at the effectiveness of the Act’s criminal justice provisions was conducted by barrister Caroline Haughey in 2016, and made a specific recommendation about the development of guidelines for these offences[1]. More recently, the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 led by Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Maria Miller MP and Frank Field MP also made a recommendation in its March 2019 report relating to Modern Slavery Reparation Orders and sentencing guidelines.[2]

The Sentencing Council agrees that it will be important to provide courts with clear guidance about the factors to take into account when sentencing modern slavery cases, especially given they are relatively new, and bearing in mind the serious and often long-lasting impact that this offending has on victims.

What is the Council consulting about?

The Council has produced this consultation paper in order to seek views from as many people as possible interested in the sentencing of modern slavery offences.

However, it is important to clarify that the Council is consulting on sentencing guidelines for these offences and not the legislation upon which such offences are based. The relevant legislation is a matter for Parliament and is, therefore, outside the scope of this exercise.

Through this consultation process, the Council is seeking views on:

  • the principal factors that make any of the offences included within the draft guidelines more or less serious;
  • the additional factors that should influence the sentence;
  • the types and lengths of sentence that should be passed; and

anything else you think should be considered.

What else is happening as part of the consultation process?

This is a three month public consultation. During the consultation period, the Council will host a number of consultation meetings to seek views from groups with an interest in this area. Once the consultation exercise is over and the results considered, a final guideline will be published and used by all courts.

Alongside this consultation paper, the Council has produced an online questionnaire.  The Council has also produced a resource assessment for the guideline, along with a statistical bulletin and data tables showing current sentencing practice for these offences. The online questionnaire, resource assessment, statistical bulletin and data tables can be found on the Sentencing Council’s website: www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk

In the following sections the proposed guidelines are outlined in detail and you will be asked to give your views. You can give your views by answering questions on just the areas which you are interested in or all of the questions below, either by email to consultation@sentencingcouncil.gov.uk or by using the online questionnaire.

The Sentencing Council is the independent body responsible for developing sentencing guidelines for the courts to use when passing a sentence. The Council consults on its proposed guidelines before they come into force and makes changes to the guidelines as a result of consultations.The Sentencing Council is the independent body responsible for developing sentencing guidelines for the courts to use when passing a sentence. The Council consults on its proposed guidelines before they come into force and makes changes to the guidelines as a result of consultations.


 

Audiences

  • Citizens
  • Voluntary organisations
  • Charities
  • Voluntary organisations
  • Government departments
  • Legal professionals
  • Judiciary
  • Police
  • Prosecutors
  • Victims
  • Legal professional bodies
  • Public sector
  • VCSE/Charity/Mutual
  • Think tanks
  • UK policy institutions
  • UK politicians

Interests

  • Courts
  • Criminal justice
  • Law
  • UK Law
  • Judiciary