Posted: Monday 11th January 2016
It is hard to imagine that in this day and age slavery still exists however the sad truth is that it does. That is why it is more important than ever that we must continue to fight to eradicate human trafficking and exploitation for good. In 2014, according to Home Office reports, it was suggested that there could be between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK alone. These are shocking statistics by any standards and just highlight how big a problem modern slavery and human trafficking is and continues to be.
In July 2015 I strongly welcomed the Modern Slavery Act, which was the first of its kind in Europe and specifically addresses slavery and trafficking in the 21st century. This change in legislation is crucial and plays an incredibly important part in protecting victims. In Avon and Somerset more specifically, we’re incredibly fortunate to have some fantastic charities, partner agencies and individuals in the Constabulary who continue to work together to tackle this serious issue.
Modern slavery sits under my priority of tackling domestic and sexual abuse which is published in my Police and Crime Plan, after local people told me that this was one of the things that mattered to them most. No one has the right to control or abuse another person either physically or mentally and that is why I want the police to continue to focus on tackling this terrible crime. It’s also why I’m also strongly welcoming the new domestic abuse law which recognises controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or family relationships.
Support for victims of modern slavery is also included as part of my wider plan for victims and I commissioned Unseen UK to develop a one year modern slavery pilot in Avon and Somerset. The service is centred on delivering training to frontline organisations as well as providing assistance in identifying potential victims of trafficking, providing direct support to potential victims and assessing levels of modern slavery in the region. You can find out more about this service and the work of Unseen UK by visiting www.unseenuk.org
At the end of last year, I was delighted to welcome Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland to Avon and Somerset to find out more about the work that’s taking place to tackle modern slavery in the South West. It was great to be able to show Kevin, first-hand the commitment and dedication of the police, partners and my office in our continued efforts to put an end to this hidden crime. Also, to explain how this fits into my wider vision of putting victims first in everything we do.
I continue to explore ways to put an end to such a crime which ruins and destroys lives. An anti-slavery partnership has been established in Bristol for which I’ve provided funding for training and expansion of the partnership. Through my Community Action Fund I’ve also given a grant to Unchosen to fund a series of films to help raise awareness of modern slavery. More recently I supported Unseen’s ‘Get Seen for Unseen’ campaign.
My aspirations for this year remain unchanged and I want the police to continue to focus on putting victims at the heart of everything they do, which includes tackling modern slavery. It is great that we have national days to help raise awareness of such terrible and cruel crimes, however slavery and trafficking take place throughout the year and that is why it’s so important we work to put an end to if for good.
Later this month I am due to join my fellow Police and Crime Commissioner’s for the launch of a National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network in London. As well as feeling like we in Avon and Somerset have a lot to share with other PCC’s, I am equally keen to learn more about how my colleagues and their teams are working to tackle modern slavery across the country. However, no matter who we are or where we live, the message to offenders is clear – the exploitation of people will not be tolerated.