New Scottish measures have recently come into force to address human trafficking and improve victim support. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 took full effect on 31 May.

The Act creates a specific human trafficking offence and a separate offence of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. Human trafficking occurs were a person is recruited, transported, harboured or exchanged with a view to another person being exploited. It is enough if the person knows or ought to know that the other person is likely to be exploited (in any part of the world) as a result of their actions.

These offences are punishable by imprisonment, and can carry the penalty of life imprisonment. The courts can also impose longer sentences for other crimes which involve trafficking, or where trafficking is committed by a public official, or if the victim is a child.

There are also powers for the police and the courts to confiscate and seize property used for human trafficking.

The Act sits alongside the Modern Slavery Act 2015 which is designed to tackle slavery and human trafficking in the UK today. The UK Act imposes obligations on large companies to produce annual statements. See our previous updates on that Act here. In creating specific criminal offences and setting out the penalties, the Scottish Government is making clear that it intends to come down hard on anyone found to be participating in human trafficking or slavery in their business.

The sex industry is likely to be a key area of focus for the police in enforcing the new law, but the Scottish Government also listed factory workers, agriculture, the food and hospitality industries, care work and the construction industry as potential sectors for further scrutiny.

The Scottish Government is also developing a Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy to help raise public awareness and help businesses spot the signs of potential trafficking and exploitation.