Concerns that prosecutors are not using new modern slavery law enough as hundreds of offences in West Yorkshire go unpunished
Prosecutors have been accused of failing to use modern slavery legislation to pursue and convict criminals who traffic and exploit vulnerable people both into and within the UK.
Analysis of Ministry of Justice figures as part of a JPIMedia Investigation into modern slavery has revealed just one in five cases that make it to courts in England and Wales – a fraction of the crimes recorded by police – result in conviction.
When approached for comment, a Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said it should be taken into account that “in many circumstances perpetrators can be best prosecuted under different offences which can skew the figures”.
The office for the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner also said modern slavery charges were “preferable”, not least because of a range of protections slavery legislation opens up for victims.
The 2015 Modern Slavery Act consolidated and simplified existing exploitation and trafficking offences under one umbrella offence, increasing the maximum penalty to life imprisonment.
In West Yorkshire, two of the eight cases brought before the courts have resulted in a conviction to date. The average sentence was 6.5 years.
Lynette Woodrow, modern slavery lead for the CPS, said prosecutors were receiving enhanced training to help them build stronger cases. She added: “I am encouraged to see the number of modern slavery-flagged prosecutions increasing over the last year and an increase in the conviction rate.”