Dame Sara welcomes Victims’ Commissioner Review on children’s experience of domestic abuse and children’s offending


A review published today by the Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, finds there is an overlap between children’s experience of domestic abuse and children’s offending behaviour, including exploitation within county lines trafficking.

Read: Sowing the Seeds: Children’s experience of domestic abuse and criminality 


Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said:

“This important review outlines the devastating impact that domestic abuse is having on our children. Desperate to escape, many of these already vulnerable young people are further preyed upon by criminal gangs who exploit them through child criminal and sexual exploitation, including county lines trafficking. 

I have recently led an enquiry into the use of the statutory defence element of the Modern Slavery Act, as I am concerned about the lack of clarity about the use of this defence. This makes it hard to know whether victims of criminal exploitation are being protected as the law intends. 

I welcome Dame Vera’s review which emphasises the need to place safeguarding at the heart of our response to child exploitation. This must be embedded within child protection and criminal justice procedures, with wraparound support provided to children locally. I am concerned that we’re not putting enough protection around children and have called for decision-making on child trafficking cases to be locally led. 

I encourage calls for a Public Health Approach to Serious Youth Violence, putting prevention and early intervention at the forefront of our response to protect young people from the risk of exploitation. As this review highlights, it is important that we learn from our response to child sexual exploitation as it is unacceptable that we fail to protect vulnerable victims of exploitation. 

This review is particularly timely, given that so many of us are currently forced to spend so much of our time at home due to Coronavirus. For many, home is sadly not a place of safety. I urge stakeholders and practitioners across the criminal justice system and local authorities to take note of this review and to work together to protect all children.”





  • Part 4 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 created the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The Commissioner has a UK-wide remit to encourage good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of slavery and human trafficking offences and the identification of victims.
  • The Commissioner is given an annual budget with which to appoint staff and carry out her duties. She is accountable through her strategic plan and annual reports, which the Secretary of State lays before Parliament, setting out the extent to which objectives and priorities are achieved. Her Strategic Plan 2019 – 2021 was launched in October 2019.
  • Dame Sara Thornton was appointed as the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner by the Secretary of State following consultation with the Scottish Ministers and the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland. She took up post at the beginning of May 2019 and her appointment is for three years.
  • Dame Vera Baird is the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales,  dedicated to promoting the interests of victims and witnesses. The role of Victims’ Commissioner is set down in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004.