Exploring available knowledge and evidence on prostitution in Scotland via practitioner-based interviews

Exploration of available knowledge and evidence on the scale and nature of prostitution in Scotland based on practitioner-based interviews.

Question 3 Human trafficking and organised crime

  • Evidence on women who have been trafficked (number and profile of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation).
  • Links to organised crime - i.e. police intelligence or information about organised crime related to prostitution markets and the number and nature of these.

Main findings

  • As with other aspects of prostitution there is little reliable evidence on trafficking for sexual exploitation.
  • National figures from the 'National Referral Mechanism' showed 40 referrals for adult sexual exploitation in 2015. For a number of reasons these statistics are thought to only reflect a small proportion of the trafficking markets.
  • TARA (the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance) in Glasgow supports trafficking survivors, including people exploited and working in lap-dancing and pornography as well as prostitution. It provides accommodation and subsistence, legal advice, and other health, and wellbeing support to people who have been trafficked. From 01.04.2011 until 24.10.2016 a total of 175 women have been supported. These figures are likely to under-estimate the number of people who have been trafficked.
  • Trafficked women were seen to be found mainly in off-street prostitution markets.
  • In Scotland there is evidence of links between prostitution and serious organised crime, and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation (National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime 2015). In 2009 the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency reported 19 serious organised crime groups (5% of all the crime groups known at the time) to have been involved in prostitution.
  • The National Human Trafficking Unit of Police Scotland have responsibility for the development of intelligence in relation to prostitution linked with Human Trafficking and Exploitation and the involvement of Organised Crime Groups. This has led to the creation of Joint Investigation Teams with other EU states targeting crime groups in Romania, Slovakia and other areas of Europe. The structure allows the National Unit to support local policing who are encountering prostitution in different areas by continuing to develop the links between separate premises being used for prostitution.
  • There were some differences at a local level in the police interviewees' perception of the availability of evidence on any links with organised crime, with 2 of the areas reporting either definite or 'suspected' links to organised crime (although the more definite links were seen to be at a national level), while for other areas no known links were reported, or intelligence gaps were identified around the area. This issue was followed up with Police Scotland Executive at a later stage in the research, and they reported they were aware of intelligence around local links with organised crime. There may be operational reasons for this, for example in situations where police have contact with people involved in prostitution through dealing with incidents that have prevalent antisocial behaviour elements, and they may not always be immediately aware of the links to organised crime.


Email: Justice Analytical Services

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