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Modern Slavery Act falls short of victim protections offered in rest of UK

New analysis by the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG) of charities has said the “Modern Slavery Act is, in a number of areas, weaker than its counterparts” in Scotland and Northern Ireland when it comes to victim protection. 

The report “Class Acts?” compares the provisions of all three new anti-trafficking laws passed across the UK in 2015 and concludes that the Modern Slavery Act in many cases offers lesser protections for victims than the other pieces of legislation. 

The report particularly highlights the statutory duty in the Northern Irish and Scottish legislation to provide assistance and support to adult victims – in the Modern Slavery Act for England and Wales there is only a duty to issue guidance about support.

Both the laws in Northern Ireland and Scotland set out the minimum range of assistance and support that victims should be offered (according to their individual needs) during the reflection and recovery period, and the ATMG expresses concern that there is a “risk that the standards of care and support provided to victims will differ across the different jurisdictions.”  The report recommends at the very least the guidance which will be issued for England and Wales under the Modern Slavery Act should set out victim entitlements equivalent to those in the Northern Irish and Scottish legislation.

During the passage of the Modern Slavery Act CARE called on the Government to incorporate victim support provisions, stressing that it would be regrettable for victims in England and Wales to end up with lesser protection fewer rights than victims in other parts of the country.  We continue to urge the Government to use the enabling power added to the Act to establish victims’ entitlement to support in regulations.

The ATMG report also notes other key variations across the jurisdictions including different definitions of the criminal offences of trafficking and forced labour, different regimes for court orders aimed at preventing these crimes, and different approaches to the collection of data.  CARE echoes the ATMG’s call for greater monitoring and analysis of information about the enforcement of these laws, about perpetrators, and for careful consideration of how data about victims is protected.

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