A potential child victim of modern slavery is a potential victim of a crime. All cases involving children should be referred to the police.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 contains two main modern slavery offences punishable by up to life imprisonment: slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour, and human trafficking.
The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 also established new offences of human trafficking and slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour, punishable by up to life imprisonment.
In cases where there is an immediate threat to the potential victim, a referral to the police should already have been made by the first responder or frontline worker. Where this has not happened and the competent authority considers there is an immediate threat to the potential victim, the competent authority must refer a case to the police as soon as the information is known to the Home Office or UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC). Where there is not an immediate threat, the case should be referred to the police by the competent authority following the reasonable grounds decision.
Where a positive reasonable grounds decision has been made, the police must record the case as a crime and the crime reference number must be shared with the competent authority to add to the case file. When providing the crime reference number to the competent authority the police should, wherever possible, indicate if an investigation is underway or likely to be undertaken.
Potential victims are under no obligation to cooperate with the police.
- Child victims may be highly distrustful of the police. There are various reasons for this:
- It can be that the traffickers have told them that should they divulge their experiences to the police, they will be arrested or otherwise find themselves in trouble as a result of illegal activities they were involved in.
- A rehearsed account from the trafficker may be stated by the child. The child may be in fear of not being believed over the adult trafficker’s evidence.
- The child may have formed an unfavourable view of the police from experiences of the police in their home country.
- The child may not consider themselves as being trafficked.
Interviews should take place in a child-friendly environment where the child feels safe and in accordance with the vulnerable and intimidated witness guidance: