Trafficking and exploitation strategy: second annual progress report

Report setting out progress implementing the trafficking and exploitation strategy in 2018 to 2019.

Section 2
Action Area 2 – Identify Perpetrators And Disrupt Their Activity

Implementation Structures

Action Area 2 focuses on the identification of perpetrators of human trafficking and exploitation with the intention of disrupting their criminal activity. Key issues for this group include: the duty to notify and provide information about victims, sharing intelligence locally and globally so that others are aware of patterns and trends in Scotland, and using all powers available under the Act to disrupt trafficking activity. 

The implementation group for Action Area 2 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 (HOIE)
  • Border Force
  • Scottish Government (human trafficking policy, organised crime policy and Marine Scotland)
  • Glasgow City Council Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA)
  • Migrant Help
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
  • British Transport Police (BTP)
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)

Membership of Action Area 2 has been extended to ensure a broad range of local human trafficking police champions now participate in addition to the National Human Trafficking Unit and C3 Division (command and control) as this is often the first contact made to the Police to either report a crime or to seek assistance. Additional partners such as COSLA have been invited to join Action Area 2 due to the cross over with the other Action Areas and the supporting role they will have going forward in developing Action Area 2 priorities. 

Looking Back

The first annual progress report identified five different strands of work that Action Area 2 would continue to deliver and take forward during 2018/19, further detail of which can be found in this chapter. These include:

  • Joint operations including Operation Aidant intensification periods, 
  • Sharing of intelligence with HMRC to reduce previous knowledge gaps,
  • Creation of an e-learning package by COPFS pulling together information from a number of resources,
  • Further prosecutorial engagement across the UK to improve and refine the criminal justice response to human trafficking and exploitation, and 
  • The use of Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Orders (TEPOs) and Trafficking and Exploitation Risk Orders (TEROs). 

Key outcome: Public bodies and others report concerns 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 public consultation in respect of the duty launched on 16 June 2019 and will run to 6 September 2019. You can access the consultation here: The purpose of the consultation is to consider:

  • 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. 

A pilot between City of Edinburgh Council and Police Scotland’s National Human Trafficking Unit (NHTU) is ongoing. There were two early referrals but these proved not to be cases of human trafficking and/or exploitation. There have been no further referrals. While low level of referrals would be in line with reporting levels from local authorities in England under their equivalent duty, reasons for the lack of referrals are being explored to improve identification in future roll-out. Initial thoughts are that this may be because of a lack of awareness amongst staff about new processes to follow, a downward trend in victims being recovered in Edinburgh or that as concerns are already raised through other well established channels they may not fall under the scope of duty to notify.

The pilot was extended in September 2018 to include Border Force at Glasgow Airport and the GLAA. In the first 9 months, 40 referrals were submitted to the NHTU from Border Force. This has allowed the notification process to be tested. A review of the process will be undertaken at the conclusion of the pilot to evaluate the future impact that the duty may have on Police Scotland and other bodies.

As is outlined in the previous chapter Police Scotland and the Scottish Government continue to engage with the Home Office regarding the development of the new digital platform for the NRM. NHTU Officers have taken part in discussions and testing of the proposed system. 

"When coming to The Anchor, I have received a great support from all the staff, including a friendly smile from the receptionist and enthusiastic attitude and sympathetic listening of the psychologists during appointments. It allows me to tell my deep secrets, which helps me mentally.”

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. The NHTU retains governance around this process to ensure policy, standard operating procedures and compliance rates are maintained and potential victims of trafficking are identified and support is provided where relevant.

Since the inception of the national Human Trafficking Threat Desk (HTTD) in 2017 it has continuously gathered, assessed and developed intelligence to inform a clearer understanding of human trafficking in Scotland. Daily briefings and collaborative working takes place between the HTTD, NHTU and the network of divisional human trafficking and local intelligence officers to identify areas of risk. This process ensures potential victims are identified at an early stage and safeguarding and protective measures can be put in place.

Police Scotland’s National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) also provides a centralised function to deliver a better understanding of human trafficking in Scotland in order to manage and mitigate the associated threats, risk and harm. This intelligence is documented in a bi-monthly Human Trafficking Threat Assessment which informs both the strategic intelligence picture and tactical response via the NHTU and external partners. Stakeholders involved in this process have been extended to include British Transport Police, Border Force, National Crime Agency, Home Office Immigration Enforcement and Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority. 

The Serious Organised Crime Taskforce has developed an online training resource for local authority enforcement officers to raise awareness of human trafficking and exploitation, to enable them to spot the signs of possible trafficking and exploitation and provide advice on the various ways of reporting concerns.

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 co-ordinate work to tackle human trafficking.

Police Scotland hosted a Human Trafficking Conference at the Scottish Police College in September 2018. The conference examined successful police prosecutions and support available to victims, in Scotland and across the UK, to identify and share best practice. Speakers included representatives from TARA, Migrant Help, International Justice Mission, Santa Marta Group and Police Officers from Lancashire and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The conference was attended by partner organisations including the NHS, Border Force, HMRC, Salvation Army, COPFS, Scottish Judiciary, Social Work and a range of Police officers from different police backgrounds. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice addressed the conference and took part in a Q&A with the audience.

Following the decision to leave the European Union and current uncertainty and lack of information around terms and conditions, there is a risk that human trafficking and exploitation investigations will be severely hampered due to uncertainty in accessing data necessary to progress investigations, resulting in investigative delays or inability to investigate transnational crimes collaboratively under current Joint Investigation Teams (JIT) arrangements. 

Police Scotland has set up a dedicated team to assess the significant impact of the UK leaving the European Union and how this will impact on operational capability within the human trafficking and exploitation arena. The Scottish Government has also laid an Order[4] in the Scottish Parliament which specifies three United Nations Conventions and offers Police Scotland a legal basis for participation in Joint Investigation Teams when the UK leaves the European Union. The Order came into force on 5 June 2019.

"I can use the bank to pay for internet, so I can look for work on my phone.”

The NHTU are in the process of developing an internal quarterly newsletter to update staff on key learning and good news stories, highlighting the support available from the NHTU and the network of Human Trafficking Champions and Tactical Advisors across all areas of Police Scotland. The newsletter will contain updates on legislation, where to find information on the Police Scotland intranet, key external contacts, and the help and support available to victims. 

The NHTU will now ensure that at the beginning of each human trafficking investigation there is a nominated Single Point of Contact within the NHTU to offer advice, support and guidance in relation to investigative priorities and the potential to apply for TEROs and TEPOs

During 2018, Police Scotland targeted individuals and premises connected to human trafficking and exploitation as part of their wider response to Operation Aidant with a particular focus on sexual, labour and criminal exploitation. Police Scotland was able to interact with a number of potential victims and ensure appropriate support measures were put in place. 

Police Scotland are involved in 7 Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) in relation to human trafficking and exploitation with law enforcement and prosecution partners across Europe from countries such as Slovakia, Romania and Northern Ireland. Joint days of action have taken place to execute warrants, disrupt illegal activities and support victims to safety with the assistance of TARA and other support services. A number of the JIT operations are subject to judicial process both here in Scotland and across Europe. The success of this joint working has been crucial to protect vulnerable individuals and to bring those responsible to justice.

The Secondment of Romanian Police Officers to Scotland ended in March 2019. As reported in the first annual progress report the secondment was extremely beneficial. 

Over the past five years Vietnamese adults and children have consistently appeared as one of the top nationalities of potential victims of trafficking identified in Scotland. 

During December 2018 representatives from the NHTU, at the invitation of Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT) UK, travelled to Hanoi, Vietnam, along with representatives from the National Crime Agency. Discussions took place with Vietnamese officials from the police service and Ministry for Public Security. Issues regarding trafficking to Scotland were discussed along with proposals for Vietnamese and Police Scotland law enforcement to work more closely to tackle these. Further meetings in the UK are scheduled to take place in 2019. 

During 2018, over 120 potential victims of human trafficking and exploitation were identified at Glasgow Airport by Border Force officials and, after declining the support of the NRM, were returned to their home country in the interest of their own welfare. Border Force record the returns on their internal systems providing a valuable source of intelligence to prevent re-trafficking should the potential victim attempt to re-enter the UK. This has allowed Border Force to identify vulnerable individuals attempting to enter ports, not only in Scotland but across the UK, on a number of occasions. 

On the 25 and 27 of September 2018 Officers of Paisley Criminal Investigation Department, led a multi-agency day of action as part of Operation Aidant (Human Trafficking – Sexual Exploitation). 

In conjunction with the Ports Authority, Border Force, and Immigration officials at Glasgow Airport, flights originating in Budapest and Bucharest were targeted. Officers from the Ports Authority, Border Force and Immigration targeted Potential Victim of Trafficking (PVoT) as they disembarked from these flights, whilst both uniformed and plain clothes Police Scotland personnel engaged with a number of people within the arrivals area of the airport. 

As a result of this approach two potential victims of Human Trafficking were returned to their home country prior to entering the country and a number of nominals were identified for intelligence purposes. 

This joined up approach to this issue ensured the safety of the two PVoT’s as well as highlighting the benefit of a multi-agency approach. 

HMRC has been assisting Border Force at Glasgow Airport with regards to inbound flights arriving from destinations throughout Europe where traffickers are believed to operate. HMRC officers are able to provide real time information to Border Force to assist in vulnerability assessments and ensure safety measures are put in place in the UK or the country of origin where necessary. 

In September 2018 HMRC reached agreement with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) regarding the tax treatment of non-EEA crew working on Scottish fishing boats. The SFF will advise its members that from 2018/19 all non-EEA crew are to be recorded on the payroll and monthly returns made to HMRC. Meetings have been held with other trade representative bodies in order to extend this agreement and treatment to fishing boat operators in the rest of the UK

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

Since the first provisions of the Human Trafficking & Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 came into force in May 2016, COPFS has received 23 cases from Police Scotland. Prosecutors have taken action in respect of offences in terms of the 2015 Act in 11 of those cases (action was also taken in 5 other cases but not in respect of offences in terms of the 2015 Act). 

  • In fewer than 5 cases, 3 accused persons have been convicted of charges in terms of the Act. 
  • In fewer than 5 cases, the accused person was acquitted of a charge in terms of the 2015 Act.
  • Proceedings are ongoing in relation to 8 cases which involve charges in terms of the 2015 Act.
  • In fewer than 5 cases, a decision on whether to take action is being considered. 
  • In fewer than 5 cases, prosecutors decided to take no action or no further action in relation to all charges.

Operation Heathyard was Police Scotland’s response to a Latvian organised crime gang operating in West Lothian and Manchester. Although not prosecuted in terms of the Act, in November 2018, 4 people were convicted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of contravening section 28 of the Criminal Justice & Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 involving the recruitment, facilitation of travel and exploitation of young men from Latvia. They were each sentenced to 4 years and 11 months imprisonment and Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPOs) were imposed on two of the convicted persons.

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 associate with, employ or plan travel for; and the property they can use. They must notify Police Scotland of any travel plans to Scotland. They are also restricted in the number of communication devices they may own and they are prohibited from using third party bank accounts and possessing over £500 in cash.

Due to the close relationship between human trafficking and serious organised crime offences, it may sometimes be more appropriate for prosecutors to apply to the court for a Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO) rather than a TEPO on sentencing, for example there may not be a conviction for a relevant offence that is legally required for a TEPO to be imposed. 

As reported in the first annual progress report 2 TEPOs have been granted. In respect of the 8 cases in which proceedings are ongoing in terms of the 2015 Act, these cases are being monitored to determine if TEPOs should be applied for on conviction. There are currently 5 cases where TEROs are being considered and 6 cases where it was determined that the tests were not met for a TERO application to be submitted. 

Police Scotland will continue to collaborate with COPFS to ensure that both TEROs and TEPOs are considered in all cases that meet the criteria. Internal processes within Police Scotland will be improved in regard to application for these orders. Continued work will be undertaken to highlight the benefits of the orders and the offences to which a TEPO can be added. Best practice and lessons learned from the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements approach to managing sexual offenders has helped to develop these new processes for TEPOs and TEROs

During the last year, COPFS has undertaken central monitoring of cases involving relevant offences. Building on extensive published guidance for prosecutors, this process acts as an additional means of alerting prosecutors to consider TEPO applications in relevant cases. In the coming year a more formal structure will be placed around this process. COPFS is now monitoring TEPO applications in the same way as it monitors SCPO applications and the Serious Organised Crime Unit within COPFS now has oversight of all relevant cases to ensure that TEPOs are considered where appropriate. 

The powers available to the courts, police and prosecutors under Part 4 of the Act are intended to help prevent harm to vulnerable individuals by disrupting and deterring trafficking and exploitation activity. The Scottish Government hopes that as knowledge of the Act develops across the criminal justice system other offences could be aggravated by a connection with human trafficking activity which would support TEPO applications, either at the conclusion of criminal proceedings or on application under section 18 of the Act. The Scottish Government is however mindful that the imposition of an order is entirely at the discretion of the Courts. 

The COPFS People & Learning Division, the bespoke unit responsible for producing and conducting training for Scottish prosecutors, has developed an E-Learning training package for all staff. The package focuses on the legal issues which arise in the prosecution of suspected traffickers as well as the non-prosecution of victims of trafficking. The package also provides staff with guidance about identifying the potential signs of trafficking and supporting victims to recovery. The training package was published for COPFS staff in April 2019.

The Judicial Institute for Scotland, which provides training for Scottish judges, has for some years provided training inputs related to human trafficking. Since the middle of 2018, the Institute has engaged specifically with senior judges, the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Police Scotland and others to produce a Human Trafficking Briefing Paper as a resource for the judiciary. This paper will raise awareness of human trafficking issues, including, but not confined to, the social context of the offences, the position of victims, prosecution policy and technical legal considerations. The paper will be supported by face-to-face training events.

The heads of the prosecuting authorities throughout the UK are committed to improving collaboration, sharing best practice and establishing a set of Prosecutors Commitments which would guide the work being carried out in this area.

The Immigration Act 2016 introduced Labour Market Enforcement (LME[5]) undertakings and orders. These new powers came into force in November 2016. LME undertakings and orders can be used as an alternative or additional sanction for breaches of certain labour market legislation where a “trigger offence” is identified. The first LME undertaking in Scotland was served in June 2018 and is still currently in place. The company in question continues to comply with the measures implemented. A LME undertaking is an agreement by the non-compliant person, or business, with one of the enforcing authorities on what that person or business will do to restore and maintain compliance with legislative requirements. The agreement will set out what needs to be done, by a specific date, and how. To find out more about LME undertakings and orders please visit the GLAA website[6].

In October 2018 a case was submitted by Police Scotland to the Procurator Fiscal for human trafficking offences that also included an additional charge of acting as an unlicensed Gangmaster. 

The Scottish Government produces newsletters on a bi-annual basis to raise awareness of convictions and victims’ experiences. This newsletter is shared with a wide number of stakeholders and is hosted on the Scottish Government webpages to ensure this information is publicly available. The newsletters can be accessed by following the link below.

Looking Forward

The Scottish Government will take forward work in respect of data collection. 

Police Scotland will enhance awareness amongst its officers and those involved in tackling criminal gangs to highlight the potential links between ‘county lines’ and human trafficking and exploitation and the legislation available to prosecute offenders. 

Police Scotland will continue to identify ways in which to improve and develop their relationship and working arrangements with foreign law enforcement partners and continue to seek out potential opportunities for secondment of foreign officers to assist and enhance their ability to effectively investigate human trafficking and exploitation throughout Scotland. 

The NHTU will continue to enhance working relationships with current partners whilst developing new collaborative and partnership working with public bodies and private business. 

Police Scotland will take forward development and roll-out of an Inter-Agency Referral Discussion (IRD) approach to address reports of human trafficking. 



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