The total number of individuals brought to justice for the crime of modern slavery is relatively low given the scale of offending. Disruption of criminal networks must therefore be a key priority and crime recording plays a significant role in this.
All referrals into the UK’s framework for support for victims, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), must be recorded as crimes, according to official Home Office Counting Rules. When they are not, investigations are not launched and victims do not receive the justice and support that they both need and deserve.
As the Commissioner details in his first Annual Report (find out more on the Resources page) in financial year 2015/16, 884 modern slavery crimes were recorded by police in England and Wales, and yet 3,146 referrals were made to the NRM during the same period.
The Commissioner found that while some UK police forces were taking a proactive approach to combating slavery through bespoke units, quality assurance mechanisms and training, others had no system for storing and managing the NRM referrals made by their force, or linking them to crime records.
The Commissioner has therefore been working with police forces to build consistency in crime recording, using his bi-annual data requests to monitor police performance. This year has seen a marked increase of 159% in the number of modern slavery crimes recorded by police in England and Wales, with 2,255 recorded in financial year 2016/2017. Officers have started to recognise their duty to response to modern slavery, and the Commissioner is now pushing for this to be a continuous shift in police culture as victims are properly identified and investigations are undertaken.