Publication - Consultation paper

Trafficking and exploitation strategy: draft for consultation

Published: 12 Oct 2016
Justice Directorate
Part of:
Equality and rights, Law and order

A draft strategy for consultation on tackling human trafficking and exploitation in Scotland.

17 page PDF

292.0 kB

17 page PDF

292.0 kB

Trafficking and exploitation strategy: draft for consultation
Section 4: Children

17 page PDF

292.0 kB

Section 4: Children


Much of what is set out in the preceding Sections will also apply to children. However, it is also helpful to set out where the situation for children who are or who are suspected victims of human trafficking and exploitation differs from that for adults.

Children are by default more vulnerable to coercion and abuse than adults due to their age and dependency on others for their care and are therefore at greater risk of becoming victims. The vulnerability of children is even greater when they are moved to another location, where they have no associations or shared language.

The Act defines a child as a person under 18 years of age.

Action Area 1: Identify Victims and Support them to Safety and Recovery

A child victim of human trafficking or exploitation is a victim of child abuse and the child's safety remains the principal consideration. Support and protection for child victims in Scotland should be provided within the context of Scotland's child protection system and the national Getting It Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC) approach to improving outcomes for children and young people. In all cases where it is suspected that a child may be a victim of human trafficking or exploitation, the child's safety is paramount and child protection procedures must be activated quickly. Separate systems should not be put in place for children who have been or are suspected of having been trafficked or exploited.

It is essential to take timely and decisive action because of the high risk of the child or young person being moved. The National Guidance for Child Protection [8] , refreshed in 2014, provides guidance in respect of child trafficking. It highlights that all necessary actions and inter-agency child protection procedures should be followed to ensure child victims are protected. The National Guidance remains the primary guidance document for child protection and vulnerability investigations. The identification, or not, of child victims should not preclude or override any child protection investigations.

In addition, local Child Protection Committees should ensure that there are specific and appropriate arrangements on child trafficking and exploitation in place through guidance, protocols or procedures, which are known and implemented by relevant services.

The Inter-agency Guidance for Child Trafficking [9] , published in 2013, provides information and guidance to all members of the children's workforce so that professionals and others are able to identify trafficked children and make appropriate referrals so that victims can receive protection and support. The guidance includes an indicator matrix for child trafficking, based on best available information as to what factors in a child's circumstances may lead to the belief that a child has been trafficked. However, the indicators do not replace child protection investigations and their presence or otherwise should not preclude implementation of standard child protection procedures.

The responsibility for coordinating services for child victims of human trafficking and exploitation lies primarily with the relevant local authority, which provides support whether or not (in the case of trafficking) children have reported to the UK-wide National Referral Mechanism (see Section 2).

The Scottish Government will work to ensure that local authorities across Scotland provide care to a consistently high standard in terms of a child's entitlement under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, both in the short term and when they leave care. In the short term, the risk is that providing a potential child victim of trafficking or exploitation with supported accommodation under Section 22 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 may leave them vulnerable to being re-trafficked. To that end, the Scottish Government is seeking to bring forward guidance on the use of Sections 22 and 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.

Where young people are victims of crime, including trafficking or exploitation, there is a need to ensure that a child centred, wellbeing approach is taken to their needs in line with the GIRFEC approach. It is also important to identify and assess the circumstances impacting on the child. A child who is involved in some offending behaviour, for example, may be a victim themselves. Children who have been trafficked or exploited are likely to be highly traumatised by their experience. Many NHS Boards have already put a lot of effort into reducing waiting times for access to psychological therapies and to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services ( CAMHS). The Scottish Government will continue to support Boards to meet their access targets with a programme of improvement.

It is worth noting that the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 may offer protection from 16 years and up in a small number of cases.

Additional Support for Child Victims

Section 11 (Independent child trafficking guardians) and Section 12 (Presumption of Age) of the Act introduce provisions that relate specifically to support for child victims.

Section 11 contains two duties. It places a duty on Scottish Ministers to make such arrangements as they consider appropriate to enable a person (an "independent child trafficking guardian") to be appointed to assist, support and represent an eligible child. An eligible child is a child that a relevant authority determines is unaccompanied (in the sense that no person in the UK holds parental rights or responsibilities in relation to the child) and the authority (based on reasonable grounds of belief) determines that the child is, or may be, a victim of the offence of human trafficking; or that they are vulnerable to becoming a victim of that offence. The second duty is for relevant authorities to, as soon as reasonably practicable after determining that a child is eligible, take steps to refer that child to the guardian appointed for the child. For the purposes of Section 11, a "relevant authority" is a local authority and any other person specified by regulations made by the Scottish Ministers.

The Scottish Government will bring forward Regulations under Section 11 to fully implement the Section and make further provision about independent child trafficking guardians (for example, in relation to their appointment and their functions).

Section 12 states that where a relevant authority (defined as a local authority or health board) has reasonable grounds to believe that a person may be a victim of human trafficking and the authority is not certain of the person's age but has reasonable grounds to believe that the person may be a child, the authority must assume that the person is a child for the purposes of exercising its functions under the relevant enactments until an assessment of the person's age is carried out by a local authority, or the person's age is otherwise determined.

The Scottish Government will work with partners to update the 2012 Age Assessment Practice Guidance [10] to reflect the provisions of Section 12 of the Act.

Action Area 2: Identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity

Human Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation

There are recognised links between human trafficking and child sexual exploitation ( CSE). Through the update of the national action plan to prevent and tackle child sexual exploitation, we will ensure that Scotland is a hostile place for perpetrators and facilitators of CSE. This will be achieved through a variety of actions; to ensure perpetrators are identified early, held to account through the criminal justice system and by encouraging victims to report. This includes improving consistency in local problem profiling in order to build a national profile of CSE across Scotland.

To strengthen the multi-agency response to prevention, disruption and detection of perpetrators across Scotland, Police Scotland are currently piloting a child sexual exploitation and abuse intelligence sharing toolkit, which will formalise information collection and sharing arrangements between the police, other law enforcement agencies, statutory agencies (including social work, education, housing, health and licensing), community groups, voluntary sector services and the business community (including hotels, taxi companies, food outlets, off licenses and hostels). The toolkit will be evaluated ahead of national rollout.

Lord Advocate's Instructions - presumption against prosecution

It is important that all those in contact with a possible child victim of trafficking or exploitation are aware of the Lord Advocate's Instructions for prosecutors under Section 8 of the Act on alleged offences committed by possible victims of trafficking or exploitation. These state that if there is sufficient evidence that a child aged 17 or under has committed an offence, and there is credible and reliable information to support the fact that the child:

(a) is a victim of human trafficking or exploitation and
(b) the offending took place in the course of or as a consequence of being the victim of human trafficking or exploitation,

then there is a strong presumption against prosecution of that child for that offence.

The Lord Advocate's Instructions set out at paragraphs 15-19 that the test for application of the presumption in relation to a child victim of trafficking or exploitation is different to an adult victim. In relation to a child aged 17 or under the presumption will apply if the child is a victim of human trafficking or exploitation and the offence is committed in the course of or as a consequence of human trafficking and exploitation. There is no need to consider whether the child was compelled in any way to commit the offence.

The prosecutor must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the offence took place in the course of or as a consequence of human trafficking or exploitation.

Offences which take place during the course of the trafficking or exploitation are those which allow the process of human trafficking or exploitation to take place. For example, child victims of trafficking or exploitation may commit immigration offences, in particular being in possession of false documents or entering a country illegally, in order for the trafficking or exploitation to take place.

Offences which are a consequence of the trafficking or exploitation will often include the offences which victims commit for the benefit of those trafficking or exploiting them and will include, for example, offences relating to commercial sexual exploitation, the production and supply of controlled drugs and theft by shoplifting.

There will also be offences committed as a consequence of the trafficking or exploitation that are not for the benefit of those trafficking or exploiting but are the result of the perception of the victim that there are no other alternatives to escape the trafficking or exploitation. These offences might include offences of violence or dishonesty committed in an attempt to escape the situation in which the victim finds themselves.

This is in line with the whole system approach to offending by young people, where as far as possible children and young people should be kept out of the Criminal Justice system. Where offending does take place, effective and timely interventions are needed to address the behaviour and its causes.

Diversion from prosecution should be used when prosecution is not in the public interest and maximising opportunities for diversion from formal processes is a priority within The Youth Justice Strategy Preventing Offending - Getting it right for children and young people [11]

Action Area 3 - Address the Conditions that Foster Trafficking and Exploitation

Child Sexual Exploitation ( CSE)

Early intervention and prevention is essential in tackling CSE. In January 2016, the Scottish Government launched a national campaign to raise public awareness and understanding of CSE. The campaign, developed and supported by stakeholders, included a national TV advert and campaign website, which provides information on the many forms of child sexual exploitation, along with advice on where adults, children and young people can go for and help and support.

For children and young people (11-17), the awareness campaign focused on building and understanding the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, and empowered them to take appropriate action if they had concerns about themselves or a friend. Following the campaign, we will continue to work closely with partners to extend its reach during 2016/17.

We also recognise that part of our work to tackle CSE involves supporting people who are at risk of sexually exploiting children to change thoughts and behaviour. Core funding from the Scottish Government is enabling Stop it Now! Scotland to provide direct support to adults and young people in Scotland at risk of sexually abusing others.

Routes to arrival in Scotland

Children, both accompanied and unaccompanied, arrive in Scotland through a variety of routes, some legal and some illegal. Illegal movement at its worst manifests as trafficking, which needs to be identified and stopped. However, we acknowledge that due to the nature of trafficking, children who have been trafficked are hard to identify and that this can take place in and around identified and legal routes for example, through the controlled inter-country adoption, and identified and illegal routes for example, extra UK trafficked children.

We need to identify who this possibly trafficked group of children and young people are and what their routes to arrival have been. We will commission a piece of research that will work with frontline workers and services (for example, the police, social workers) to identify the presence of these young people and to establish their routes to arrival, particularly if these routes are outside the arrival routes that we know about for example, family reunion or children brought to the UK by non-parental kin. Through this we can then make an evidenced decision with our partners on whether guidance and best practice is required, or whether legislative change is needed to protect and safeguard and, where possible, to prevent any such activity taking place.

Missing Persons

Many children and young people who go missing do so repeatedly. Whilst away from home, they are even more vulnerable, with an estimated 1 in 6 sleeping rough or with strangers, and 1 in 9 experiencing harm while missing. The Scottish Government's National Missing Persons Strategy for Scotland provides a framework for partnership working to reduce harm and will provide a national focus for consistent good practice. It will recommend that return interviews are undertaken every time a child or young person has been missing and that prevention planning takes place, and will include a commitment to ensuring that relevant training and guidance for practitioners highlights the links between going missing and vulnerability to abuse.

The UK charity Missing People provide the Runaway and the Say Something UK helpline services. Say Something raises awareness amongst children and young people of the risks and dangers of sexual exploitation and provides advice on how to keep safe and where to seek support. The Scottish Government is funding Missing People from April 2016 to March 2019 to market these helpline services directly to young people in Scotland, to ensure that more children and young people are supported when they are thinking of going missing or need help to stay safe.