Tackling human trafficking and exploitation

Duty on public authorities to report trafficking concerns.

The Scottish Government is seeking views on plans to introduce a legal duty on Scottish public authorities to notify Police Scotland about suspected human trafficking and exploitation victims.

Information collected through the ‘duty to notify’ will 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 will also help to:
• identify and support victims
• identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity, and
• address conditions that foster trafficking and exploitation

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.”

Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald, Crime and Protection Lead, Police Scotland, said:

“Victims of human trafficking are among the most vulnerable in our communities. Some may never come to the attention of police or may choose, for their own reasons, not to engage with a police investigation.

“The introduction of a ‘duty to notify’ is a positive step which will help us work with other public services to further develop our collective approach to protecting survivors. It will also assist in helping victims to escape the clutches of traffickers, as we work to make Scotland a hostile environment for this type of inhumane criminality.”

Scottish public authorities proposed in the consultation include the 14 NHS geographical boards and all 32 Scottish Local Authorities, the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Malcolm Wright, Chief Executive of NHS Scotland, said:

“Victims of human trafficking may be deeply traumatised and distrustful of authorities which may affect their ability to seek help, support and treatment for any injuries they have sustained as a result of their situation.

“All clinical and non-clinical staff across the NHS in Scotland can play a pivotal role in identifying potential victims of human trafficking and exploitation that may otherwise go unnoticed or remain invisible.

“Through our commitment to supporting the health and well-being of Scotland’s people we all have a responsibility to share information with the appropriate authorities to support safeguarding and the reporting of crime.”


Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 - Section 38 - Duty to Notify and Provide Information About Victims Consultation

The Scottish Government has also published the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy - Second Annual Progress Report and new public attitudes research into people’s understanding of human trafficking and its prevalence in Scotland.

At present, the only available data on the numbers of trafficking victims in Scotland is 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 is 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.


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