News In Focus
Public authorities proposed for human trafficking "duty to notify"
Public authorities are set to come under a legal duty to notify Police Scotland about suspected human trafficking and exploitation victims under proposals put out to consultation by the Scottish Government.
The consultation names those authorities that would be covered by the duty to notify contained in s 38 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015. The section provides that authorities named in regulations should have to tell the police about anyone who appears to be a victim of human trafficking or enforced labour, and the police must then take that information further.
Public authorities coming under the duty would include the 14 NHS geographical boards, all 32 Scottish local authorities, the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.
Ministers believe that information collected through the duty to notify would provide a more accurate picture of the scale and extent of trafficking in Scotland, to enable more effective targeting of enforcement activity and support services.
The duty would also help to identify and support victims, identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity, and address conditions that foster trafficking and exploitation.
The consultation asks for views on:
- who should be named in regulations as a Scottish public authority that will be subject to the duty;
- what information should be included in notifications;
- who Police Scotland should pass information on to; and
- what other bodies the Scottish Government should work with that cannot be named in regulations.
At present, the only available data on the numbers of trafficking victims in Scotland are taken from the UK National Referral Mechanism, a framework for identifying potential victims of trafficking and ensuring they receive appropriate support and assistance. For those victims who do not consent to enter the NRM, no data are recorded.
Since the NRM’s introduction, recorded numbers of victims have increased across the UK. In Scotland there has been a 130% increase in referrals to the NRM in the last six reported years, to 228 in 2018.
Launching the consultation, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Human trafficking is a hidden and often complex crime meaning the true scale of the problem is unknown. Victims may be reluctant to acknowledge their own situation for reasons including fear of their traffickers, distrust in the authorities and a lack of awareness that there are agencies that can support them to safety and recovery.
“These plans will create a statutory duty on Scottish public authorities to ensure that the information obtained by Police Scotland is publically available. This intelligence will ultimately help us to protect and support more vulnerable people.”
Click here to access the consultation. The deadline for responses is 6 September 2019.