Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy: first annual progress report

The first annual progress report sets out the progress made during the first year of implementation of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy.

Section 3: Action Area 2 – Identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity

Implementation structures

Action Area 2 focusses on the identification of perpetrators of human trafficking and exploitation with the intention of disrupting their criminal activity. The key areas for this workstream are to contribute to the successful development of a duty to notify process for public bodies, the development of local, national and international intelligence sharing and utilising all available powers at the disposal of prosecuting authorities to bring offenders to justice.

The implementation group for Action Area 2 met for the first time on 22 June 2017. It meets on a quarterly basis and is chaired by Police Scotland.

The group membership includes representatives from:

  • Police Scotland
  • National Crime Agency ( NCA)
  • Home Office Immigration and Enforcement
  • Border Force
  • The Scottish Government
  • Social Work
  • Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance ( TARA)
  • Migrant Help
  • Marine Scotland
  • HMRC
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS)
  • British Transport Police
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority ( GLAA)

Key outcome: Public bodies and others report concerns appropriately

Because of the hidden nature of human trafficking activity, it can be difficult to get an accurate picture of where it is happening. It is vital that relevant information is shared with Police Scotland to allow them to investigate potential criminal activity and allocate resources appropriately.

Section 38 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 places a duty on Scottish public authorities to notify the chief constable of Police Scotland about a person who is, or appears to be, a victim of an offence under the Act. Notifications must not contain any information which could identify individuals unless consent has been given to do so.

The duty to notify provision in the Act has not yet been commenced. A local trial implementation of duty to notify processes with City of Edinburgh Council and Police Scotland began on 5 February 2018.

City of Edinburgh Council has undertaken substantial training and awareness raising activity with staff in a range of contexts, and has established a small coordination team for routing duty to notify referrals to the police. Police Scotland has developed an online portal for these referrals. Monthly meetings between the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council are held to monitor progress. After the first three months of the trial implementation, a decision was made to extend the trial to provide a more robust evidence base before national implementation of the duty. The Scottish Government is also working with the Home Office on its development of a joint digital platform for the National Referral Mechanism and duty to notify.

Police Scotland has taken steps, through publication of appropriate memoranda, to reinforce its commitment to protecting individuals exposed to the greatest threat, risk and harm, which includes potential victims of trafficking. Improved recording procedures have been implemented to ensure adherence to the Scottish Crime Recording Standards and recommendations from the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The National Referral Mechanism process has been highlighted to frontline officers to ensure indicators of trafficking are captured.

The National Human Trafficking Unit ( NHTU) analyst is involved in the production of the Human Trafficking Threat Desk monthly threat assessment, which reviews all human trafficking relevant intelligence and identifies significant and emerging threats impacting on Scotland. The threat desk is a multi-agency approach to safeguarding vulnerable people through continuous gathering, assessment and development of intelligence on human trafficking. The report covers both victim and perpetrator aspects, includes police and partner responses to the threat from trafficking and exploitation and drives monthly meetings attended by all partners. The report is disseminated to other departments, agencies, and organisations including the Joint Slavery and Trafficking Assessment Centre ( JSTAC) for input to UK-wide intelligence products.

The NHTU analyst also provides input to the annual Scottish Multi-Agency Strategic Threat Assessment ( SMASTA), which provides a strategic review of serious organised crime, terrorism, significant vulnerabilities and emerging threats facing police and partners in the coming year. The report identifies strategic priorities to inform the decision making of the Scottish Multi-Agency Collaborative Coordination Group. The analyst also contributes to problem profiles and briefing papers as a subject matter expert.

Multi-Agency Working: Police and Immigration Enforcement: Central Scotland

After several intelligence reports had been received of trafficked males working at a local Chinese restaurant in the Falkirk area, police and colleagues from the Home Office Immigration Enforcement carried out a joint visit. The result of this visit led to some minor immigration offences being detected but more importantly one young male was traced who has since disclosed that he is a victim of human trafficking offences. He is now under the National Referral Mechanism and has been rehoused to a safe location pending further inquiries.

The young person has been receiving support from the Scottish Guardianship Service. The young person disclosed later that he had been exploited in a cannabis farm and the guardian was able to support the young person to share this information with the police, social work and his legal representative and the Home Office. The Scottish Guardianship Service have played a crucial role in supporting the young person to establish a life in Scotland, supporting him to access appropriate housing, education and health whilst working closely with Social Work and other agencies.

Key outcome: Intelligence is shared so that local areas and/or other countries are aware of patterns

Police Scotland continues to work closely with partners within Scotland, across the UK and internationally, to share intelligence and coordinate work to tackle human trafficking.

Operation Synapsis – Day of action – 9 February 2017

Investigation involving Police Scotland, the Metropolitan Police and the Slovakian Police. The operation relates to the trafficking of a number of Slovakian females aged approximately 18-25 years of age, who have been trafficked from Slovakia to the UK for the purposes of sham marriages.

Between 9 and 13 February 2017, all agencies carried out enforcement operations to trace and arrest suspects in Scotland and Slovakia.

The Glasgow aspect of the operation took place on Thursday 9 February 2017, four addresses were searched, four Slovakian nationals and one Nepalese male were detained. Home Office Immigration Enforcement, Slovakian police officers and the Europol mobile office supported the operation. The arrested persons appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court on 10 February 2017, charged with offences under Asylum and Immigration Act and Organised Crime.

On 13 February 2017, four further males were arrested in Slovakia and have since appeared in court there in relation to Human Trafficking offences.

Joint investigations are ongoing with Romanian police in respect of investigating individuals involved in the trafficking of females for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Joint days of action have taken place to execute warrants, disrupt illegal activities and support victims to safety with the assistance of TARA.

Scottish officers have travelled to The Hague, Netherlands, to liaise with European law enforcement partners and prosecutors and operational meetings have been conducted with Romanian police officers and prosecutors at the Scottish Crime Campus, to discuss ongoing operations and build upon existing relationships. During the course of these enquires, Romanian police officers seconded to Police Scotland have been utilised, and continue to offer valuable support.

Police Scotland has established arrangements to ensure relevant information is shared with law enforcement agencies throughout Europe through Europol. This process allows Police Scotland to also receive relevant intelligence, which is assessed and acted on where appropriate.

Romanian officers seconded to Police Scotland have been a valuable asset and have been deployed to assist with Human Trafficking and Exploitation investigations. They have also assisted Scottish police officers and Border Force officers at Glasgow Airport with days of action, assisting with the monitoring of passengers entering the country from Romania. They have assisted in intelligence development operations and acted as a single point of contact between Police Scotland and Romanian police during joint police inquiries in both Romania and Scotland. Police Scotland have also undertaken a joint visit to Romania with TARA to improve international cooperation on returning victims and working to prevent re-trafficking.

"I am really happy with Guardianship because they explained everything to me. Thank you so much for all your help you have given me. I appreciate it so much."

Since April 2017, Border Force’s Operation Outrun at Glasgow Airport has seen a specially trained team seek to identify potential victims entering Scotland, particularly women travelling from Romania at risk of commercial sexual exploitation. Working closely with Police Scotland, TARA and Unseen, Border Force have so far interviewed 290 potential victims, who have been offered support. Of these, 165 have been returned to their home country.

During 2017, the Modern Slavery Helpline, operated by Unseen, provided 49 referrals to Police Scotland and 10 referrals to local authorities regarding human trafficking and exploitation cases.

Project Aidant is the NCA-led initiative to intensify law enforcement activity and intelligence gathering around key aspects of human trafficking.

Operation Acervose – Monday 15 May 2017

A further multi-agency action day to raise awareness of human trafficking and to identify and recover potential trafficking victims was conducted. Around 500 officers including 50 from partner agencies visited 80 premises and locations in all 13 geographical divisions of Scotland including fisheries, car washes and nail bars. This formed part of a National Crime Agency coordinated, on-going response to the threat of modern slavery and human trafficking across the UK. During the multi-agency operation a child aged 15, who displayed indicators of trafficking, was found working in a nail bar. Police Scotland officers were supported by colleagues from HM Revenue and Customs, Immigration Enforcement, British Transport Police and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.

During 2017, intelligence-led operations have been conducted throughout local divisions, focusing on labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, child trafficking, domestic servitude, illegal border activity, and Romanian and Vietnamese traffickers. Nail bars, restaurants and other businesses identified as potentially linked to human trafficking and exploitation were targeted to establish any areas of concern and identify any criminality.

Operation Heathyard – West Lothian 2 December 2016

Led by officers in West Lothian and supported by partners including West Lothian Council, National Crime Agency and Greater Manchester Police. The operation involved males from Slovenia being trafficked for the purposes of labour exploitation and forced criminality. Four Slovenian nationals were arrested at addresses in Livingston, Bathgate and Salford and were charged with human trafficking offences. A reception centre was established by the National Human Trafficking Unit, Migrant Help and NCA Victim Team.

During this time, a number of offences were identified, including criminal offences in respect of drugs, sexual exploitation and brothel keeping. Monies gained through criminality and recovered from evidential searches were seized under the Proceeds
of Crime Act.

During this period of action, Police Scotland worked with TARA and Migrant Help to ensure that victims of trafficking and exploitation were supported and the investigations were victim focused.

Project Aidant continues to operate on a quarterly basis in each of the divisions within Police Scotland, with intelligence-led operations taking place to tackle those involved in human trafficking and exploitation.

The NHTU engage with the JSTAC on a regular basis, by providing the Human Trafficking Threat Desk monthly threat assessment to the JSTAC officer assigned to Scotland. Sharing the intelligence assessments allows for enquiries to be raised and discussed between the JSTAC and NHTU analysts, and more significantly, ensures that the UK national picture of the threat from trafficking includes what is being experienced in, and is most relevant to, Scotland. Reports produced by JSTAC are disseminated to the NHTU analyst and human trafficking officers in Police Scotland, which allows knowledge to be shared, and ensures assessments and experiences of other force areas are considered in the analysis and research of trafficking in Scotland.

Data on serious organised crime groups involved in human trafficking and exploitation is also shared on a monthly basis with analysts in the Insight analytical team of the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit ( MSPTU). This team are also involved in the production of reports and assessments, which provide valuable background, and up to date information on human trafficking activity.

The Insight team produce pre- and post- briefings on the NCA’s Project Aidant activity, where specific aspects or types of human trafficking become a national focus of police intelligence development and disruption activity during specific weeks, usually each quarter. The NHTU analyst is the single point of contact for the Insight team, providing input to their pre-briefing reports. In March 2018, the MSPTU held their first National Analyst conference in Birmingham, which was attended by three analysts from Police Scotland. Subjects covered included analysis from successful prosecutions, victim psychology and working with partner agencies.

Key outcome: Police, prosecutors and courts use all powers and take robust action as appropriate

As set out in the introduction of this progress report, the Act establishes two new offences: human trafficking and slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. The Act also makes provision for two new court orders to disrupt activity related to trafficking and exploitation: Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Orders ( TEPOs) and Trafficking and Exploitation Risk Orders ( TEROs).

On 15 March 2018, two men were sentenced to ten years and seven years imprisonment respectively. Amongst other charges, both were convicted of a contravention of section 4(1) of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour). This prosecution, conducted by the national lead prosecutor for human trafficking, resulted in the first convictions under the 2015 Act since it came into force.

Both men were also made subject to Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Orders. Again, these are the first orders of their kind to be imposed in Scotland since they came into force on 30 June 2017. The terms of the order mean that, for five years after the men are released from prison, both will be restricted in whom they can employ and the property they can use, and they must notify police of any travel plans outwith Scotland. They are also restricted in the number of communications devices they may own.

Police Scotland works closely with partners on individual cases. For example, a teenage boy (aged approximately 15/16) was found lying unresponsive in a large town centre within the central belt of Scotland by members of the public. Police attended, and he was taken to receive medical attention. He disclosed at that time he had been trafficked from South East Asia. When fit to be discharged, he was accommodated at a safe location whilst a police and social work inquiry took place. Although the inquiry has ultimately led to no charges, a joint police, social work and NHS approach has ensured that this young man remains safe, well and thriving. He was revisited by police and is settled and looking to make a life for himself in this country.

Human trafficking concerns continue to be received by Police Scotland via the normal communications channels. Police Scotland’s national process for recording of human trafficking crimes has now been fully embedded across the country, and they continue to monitor compliance and raise awareness, to ensure consistency of practice.

As described in section 2, tailored training has been developed in conjunction with the Scottish Government, and is being delivered to key stakeholders, nationally and locally, along with advice from the National Human Trafficking Unit. This aims to increase awareness amongst local police officers, social workers and criminal justice workers in relation to human trafficking issues.

As part of the Strategy implementation, Police Scotland working groups were established to create a learning environment to ensure local policing is supported, best practice shared, and a long-term strategy is implemented to the benefit of vulnerable individuals and communities. This has proved to be valuable in supporting policing divisions and partners in raising awareness on processes and procedures for investigating incidents of human trafficking.

Police Scotland’s policy for protection of individuals and communities from threat, risk and harm in relation to human trafficking, is in place. It provides national guidance on investigating those who abuse, exploit or coerce the investigation and disruption of organised criminal activity, and support or creation of effective partnerships to help minimise or eliminate harm.

A Memorandum of Understanding was established between Police Scotland and Unseen, who operate the 24-hour UK-wide Modern Slavery Helpline. This agreement ensures appropriate sharing of information to enable provision of support to victims of human trafficking, at a time when they need it most. A Memorandum of Understanding is also being developed between Police Scotland and GLAA.

Multi-Agency Working: Police, Modern Slavery Helpline and Social Work

The Modern Slavery Helpline team received a call into their contact centre to state that a female possibly under 18 was being sexually exploited in a flat in a Scottish city and there were concerns about her. As per protocol arrangements with the Modern Slavery Helpline, operated by Unseen, they contacted Police Scotland who were able to task this out to the division and identify the block of flats and thereafter the flat position with some good investigative police work. Police attended and rescued an 18-year old female in a flat who was being sexually exploited; she provided a statement to the police. She was also caring for a five-year old child on behalf of the traffickers who subsequently arrived at the flat a short time later and were arrested.

Due to the initial work by the Modern Slavery Helpline, operated by Unseen, identifying the immediate threat, risk and harm, and excellent investigations by the police, two arrests were made for Human Trafficking offences. Care packages were provided to the 18-year old female victim by TARA and local services provided by social work provided a care package to the child. A great example of multi-agency partnership working that ultimately supported two victims out of an exploitative situation.

Police Scotland’s current Standard Operating Procedure ( SOP) has been reviewed, and additional information identified to be included within the SOP, such as information on Trafficking Exploitation Prevention Orders/Trafficking Exploitation Risk Orders, the use of these orders, and the best practice on how to apply for them. Also included will be information in respect of section 12 of the Act (age assessment) and the process that should be adopted by local authorities. The SOP has been disseminated for consultation and approval of changes, prior to being published. The Human Trafficking Toolkit is also under review, and changes will be made to reflect the best way to tackle human trafficking investigations. A new, simplified, Police Scotland intranet page is being considered, to allow police officers to extract useful information in respect of human trafficking.

A four-day Human Trafficking Investigators Course took place at the Scottish Police College in March 2018. This was the first time that a bespoke human trafficking investigators course had been delivered to police in Scotland. The course was delivered by two police officers from the College of Policing (England), supported by Scottish facilitators. The course was beneficial to the 17 officers who attended, who will now be able to cascade the knowledge and learning from the course to other officers. A further course is scheduled to take place in October, and officers from the National Human Trafficking Unit, assisted by the Scottish Police College, will deliver this training to other investigators.

COPFS has appointed a National Lead Prosecutor for Human Trafficking, who has oversight of all decisions relating to the prosecution of alleged traffickers and the non-prosecution of alleged victims of human trafficking. This oversight ensures that there is consistency and expertise in the decision making process. COPFS has also appointed local lead prosecutors for human trafficking based in various geographical locations throughout Scotland, all of whom take a lead role in improving knowledge and practice of these types of offences. These leads work closely with Police Scotland’s National Human Trafficking Unit and the Divisional Human Trafficking Champions.

COPFS has taken steps, and continues to take steps, to promote awareness and knowledge on the part of its staff. On 23 June 2017, the Solicitor General delivered a video message to COPFS staff highlighting the growing problems of human trafficking and modern slavery and urging staff to be aware of the signs of these offences, both at work and in their personal lives. This video was publicised to COPFS staff again on Anti-Slavery Day 2017. Training is delivered to staff on human trafficking offences as part of the COPFS Sexual Offences Awareness course.

COPFS also continues to cooperate with counterparts from other jurisdictions. Within the UK, that takes place within the context of a communiqué, signed in 2014 by the former Lord Advocate and the Directors of Public Prosecution for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and commitments agreed between the three prosecution services in 2016.

Looking Forward

Police Scotland will continue to work with partners through the Action Area 2 group and other routes on operations to identify and tackle trafficking and exploitation. This will include future Operation Aidant intensification periods.

The direct sharing of intelligence with HMRC is being developed, and will allow Police Scotland to receive intelligence where there may have been gaps in the past.

Police Scotland will continue to work alongside COPFS to maximise all available opportunities to utilise the use of TEPOs and TEROs to restrict and disrupt the criminal activity of convicted traffickers and those that are suspected of being involved in this criminal activity. Close working relationships between Police Scotland’s NHTU, Serious Crime Prevention Order Unit and COPFS will continue and develop to ensure that the legislation is used effectively to achieve successful outcomes. The application and monitoring of orders falls under the remit of the Police Scotland Serious Crime Prevention Order Unit who regularly engage with COPFS on potential Prevention Orders.

COPFS intends to create an e-learning package which will draw together all of the existing guidance relating to human trafficking and modern slavery.

In June 2018 COPFS officials will meet with officials from police forces and prosecution services from England, Wales & Northern Ireland to share experience and best practice in order to improve and refine the criminal justice response to human trafficking and modern slavery.

"The information given to me was well explained. They do their maximum. I have nothing to criticise. Concerned about the person. English lessons. A good beginning in integration."


Back to top