At present modern slavery in the UK is viewed by criminals as a high profit and low risk crime. In 2014 the Home Office estimated that there were between 10,000 – 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery across the UK. In the same year, just 2,340 potential victims were referred to the National Referral Mechanism.
Very few modern slavery crimes come to the attention of police and criminal justice agencies, and minimal modern slavery offenders are caught and convicted. The Modern Slavery Act has given law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need; it is essential that they now use these tools to their full effect. Proactive policing and rapid, sustained responses that disrupt entire criminal networks are particularly important in investigating this serious and often organised crime. If traffickers are not relentlessly pursued they will simply continue to source and exploit more victims.
Evaluating law enforcement responses across the UK will enable the identification of best practice and examination of areas where there must be improvement.