Trafficking and exploitation strategy: third annual progress report

Annual progress report and review of the trafficking and exploitation strategy and a report setting out implementation progress in 2019 to 2020.

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 areas for this work stream are to contribute to the successful development of a duty to notify process for public bodies, 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 and detect trafficking activity.

The implementation group for Action Area 2 meets on a quarterly basis and is chaired by Police Scotland. Group membership includes representatives from:

  • Scottish Government (human trafficking policy, organised crime policy and Marine Scotland)
  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish Prison Service (SPS)
  • National Crime Agency (NCA)
  • Home Office Immigration Enforcement (HOIE)
  • UK Border Force
  • Glasgow City Council Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA)
  • Migrant Help
  • Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
  • British Transport Police (BTP)
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)

Working in partnership, the group directs action to ensure a consistency of approach across Scotland for enforcement agencies, third sector bodies and support organisations to ensure the strategic aims of Action Area 2 are met.

In early 2020 a decision was taken by Police Scotland to split the group to deliver separate work streams focused on strategic and tactical issues. These tactical groups will be based within the three Police Scotland command areas and will tackle local issues whilst contributing to the development of regional partnerships.

The regional tactical groups will be made up of local statutory agencies and third sector partners who, along with representatives from local policing, will carry out operational work highlighted by the aforementioned strategic group to achieve the Action Area 2 objectives.

Looking back

Action Area 2 has made considerable progress in meeting the outcomes identified in the 2017 Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy. The second annual progress report identified five areas of work that Action Area 2 would take forward during 2019/20:

  • 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.
  • Police Scotland's National Human Trafficking Unit (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.

Further information on each strand of work can be found in this section.

Key outcome: Public bodies and others report concerns appropriately

Section 38[9] of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 places a duty on specified Scottish public authorities to notify the Chief Constable of Police Scotland of a person who appears to be the victim of human trafficking or of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. A public consultation[10] opened on 16 June and closed on 6 September 2019. Overall there was strong support for the Scottish Government's proposals within the consultation. The consultation analysis report was published on 30 April 2020.[11]

During the consultation period Police Scotland participated in a series of consultation events raising awareness of Duty to Notify in conjunction with the Scottish Government and partners. The trial implementations of the duty with the City of Edinburgh Council, the GLAA and Border Force continued last year and ended in September 2019. There were a total of 54 referrals received, all from Border Force. This provided a number of learning points which will be used in conjunction with the public consultation to help inform the implementation of the duty.

The heads of the prosecuting authorities throughout the UK are committed to improving collaboration and sharing best practice. On 26 September 2019, in furtherance of the commitments signed by the Lord Advocate and the other heads of the UK prosecuting authorities in 2016, the Lord Advocate hosted delegations of prosecutors and police officers from Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales. The delegates explored a variety of subjects including:

  • trends in detection and prosecution of human trafficking and exploitation offences;
  • experiences of 'victimless prosecutions';
  • the operation of the statutory defences which exist in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the challenges that prosecutors in England and Wales have encountered as a consequence; and
  • a discussion about the admissibility of expert evidence on the subject of whether an accused person is a victim of trafficking or exploitation.

COPFS has maintained its internal structure of local lead human trafficking prosecutors. The list of prosecutors has been refreshed throughout the year and a description of the roles and responsibilities of the lead prosecutors is available to COPFS colleagues.

COPFS have updated guidance for prosecutors to highlight the offences most commonly associated with trafficking and exploitation. In May 2019, to supplement the e-learning package published in 2018/19, face-to-face training was provided to the local lead prosecutors at the Scottish Prosecution College. This highlighted the availability of section 5 of the Act relating to aggravations and instances when it could be applied.

"Thank you so much for all your help since I came here. And I do feel safe and very comfortable in this accommodation. Many thanks. I have been treated well, I feel like I’m being cared a lot, they really care about me. Everything is good, excellent and very supportive."

In October 2019, Police Scotland took part in an event organised by the Judicial Institute of Scotland to increase awareness in preparation for presiding over human trafficking cases.

Extensive human trafficking training has been carried out among operational police officers, staff and partner agencies to improve awareness and detection of human trafficking offences. This includes a week-long 'classroom based' national Human Trafficking Investigators Course, delivered at the Scottish Police College and inputs to the Multi-Agency (Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service) Joint On Scene Command Programme. In addition, over 12,700 Police Scotland officers have completed online human trafficking training.

The National Human Trafficking Unit has delivered more than 60 awareness raising presentations on request to organisations including:

  • Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • Scottish Universities
  • NHS
  • Local Authorities
  • Retail Sector
  • Religious Institutions
  • Eurojust
  • Europol
  • Child Protection and Care services

During 2018/2019, the number of human trafficking crimes recorded by Police Scotland increased by 85.5% compared to 2017/18. Awareness raising has contributed to the significant rise in the number of human trafficking and exploitation incidents reported, recorded, investigated and prosecuted.

In September 2019, Police Scotland hosted a National Human Trafficking conference at the Scottish Police College with over 200 delegates. The conference focused on the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking offences and the keynote speech was delivered by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton. Other speakers included the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and representatives from the NCA, TARA, Migrant Help, COPFS, Europol, Police Scotland and Consortium of Anti-trafficking Research in Scotland (CATRiS).

The event brought together human trafficking practitioners, enforcement officers, third sector partners, criminal justice partners, international law enforcement and human trafficking researchers from all over the UK to share learning experiences. This included organisational learning from human trafficking investigations and victim engagement.

The second annual progress report advised that the Serious Organised Crime (SOC) Taskforce had developed an online training resource for local authority enforcement officers. This resource covered a number of scenarios including highlighting some of the situations in which human trafficking and exploitation may be present and how staff can report their concerns. The resource was published in October 2019 and is publicly available.[12]

Police Scotland have developed a Business Exploitation Document to highlight a range of sectors in which organised crime groups may invest and exploit. The document contains a section on human trafficking and is aimed at professionals who procure goods and services. It offers a range of advice on what can be done to reduce the risk from serious organised crime and where further advice can be obtained.

Dundee City Council and East Lothian Council have incorporated nail bars into their public entertainment licensing regime. This means that nail bars cannot operate without a licence. The SOC Taskforce will work with other local authorities through the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland (SOLAR), the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) and COSLA to encourage wider adoption of this policy.

Police Scotland have carried out a number of awareness raising sessions for officers and communities on 'County Lines' (the movement of drugs from cities to urban and rural locations using vulnerable persons) and the exploitation of vulnerable people, highlighting the signs to look out for. The SOC Taskforce also hosted a child criminal exploitation conference in November 2019 which included sessions on human trafficking and 'County Lines'. More information on the conference can be found in Section 4.

Work between Police Scotland and the Scottish Landlord Association is ongoing to raise awareness amongst private landlords of the use of privately rented property for the purposes of human trafficking and prostitution.

Police Scotland work with partners to support those who are most vulnerable to ensure the correct level of support is provided to every victim of trafficking. To meet this commitment, they have directed that an IRD must take place between relevant partners including police, local authority social work and health representatives (where appropriate) to ensure that victims needs are assessed and appropriate support measures are put in place. This commitment is documented in Police Scotland's new Human Trafficking Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and will be included in Child and Adult Protection SOPs.

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

Operation Encounter is the national process whereby all human trafficking intelligence is gathered and assessed by the National Human Trafficking Threat Desk, based within the National Intelligence Bureau at the Scottish Crime Campus. They produce intelligence products which support operational enforcement teams to effectively target those involved in human trafficking and provide support to the victims.

Police Scotland have committed to encouraging investigating officers to consider all safety measures available to them and make an application to the relevant court for Trafficking and Exploitation Risk and Prevention Orders (TERO / TEPO) where the circumstances allow. Police Scotland have, in conjunction with the Scottish Government and the COPFS, developed guidance and an online process which officers can utilise to make TERO and TEPO applications. This will improve consistency and has increased the number of applications being considered. In early 2020, a number of applications are in progress.

Action Area 2 have detected emerging threats and identified crime trends for human trafficking and exploitation using the following methods:

  • National Referral Mechanism (NRM)
  • Creation of the National Human Trafficking Threat Desk
  • Introduction of specific contact, command and control (STORM) codes for emergency and non-emergency calls to Police Scotland
  • Calls to the Modern Slavery helpline
  • Participation with, and analysis from the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit

In November 2019, Police Scotland introduced a new human trafficking call type to its call recording system. This has allowed more accurate recording of, and distinguishing between, initial human trafficking and immigration type incidents. There is also a recognition that victims of human trafficking often initially present as immigration cases and do not recognise or disclose their exploitation until a later date. Immigration calls to Police Scotland are closely scrutinised for this reason. Calls to Police Scotland relating to immigration rose from 371 in 2018 to 493 in 2019 - a 33% increase. Early trends in 2020 show continued significant increases in immigration and human trafficking calls.

Action Area 2 joint operations along with Border Force and other partners have included three NCA led intensification periods (Operation Aidant) during 2019 which focused on:

  • sexual exploitation including adult services websites and child sexual exploitation;
  • sex trafficking; and
  • criminal exploitation.

Five further joint operations are planned for 2020 focusing on:

  • adult services websites;
  • labour exploitation;
  • child trafficking;
  • sexual exploitation; and
  • criminal finances.

An additional Operation Aidant intensification period was held in January and February 2020 in direct response to the tragic loss of 39 Vietnamese nationals in Grays, Essex in 2019. This consisted of two weeks of disruption action specifically targeted at road hauliers. This enforcement action aimed to detect criminal activity and raise awareness among those who were knowingly or unknowingly facilitating human trafficking. In Scotland there was activity at ports and borders in the south west.

Operation Relbia took place in November 2019 and was a joint multi-agency initiative led by Border Force at Glasgow Airport. This month-long intensification period aimed to enhance and develop experience in identifying and disrupting perpetrators and traffickers and formulate a robust multi-agency approach to enable increased intelligence gathering, leading to improved outcomes such as prosecution and perpetrator removal. Some of the highlights included:

  • involving and organising multiple partners to buy-in and participate in a large operation. This was achieved successfully and flagged some important lessons with regards to the set up on the ground which will assist in any similar operations going forward;
  • the value of involving so many partners and creating a common focus on human trafficking can't be underestimated in terms of raising awareness and increasing the commitment to identifying and addressing these issues; and
  • a number of intelligence streams have emerged which may lead to additional interventions. The feedback from all agencies involved was positive.

"These people are clever, they watch you all the time and they never leave you alone. They are listening to what you say to official people."

A number of human trafficking investigations have been carried out by International Joint Investigation Teams (JITs). Romanian law enforcement officers were seconded to Police Scotland in 2019 and also worked in conjunction with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to tackle trafficking for sexual exploitation and sham marriages. These secondments will continue in 2020.

There are a number of ongoing joint investigations between Police Scotland and international law enforcement agencies. A significant conviction was secured in respect of a joint Police Scotland and Slovakian police investigation and further information is available below. Police Scotland will continue to work with international partners, seeking opportunities to share knowledge and promote effective working relationships.

The considerable increase in NRM referrals from Scotland has been particularly prominent for Vietnamese nationals. This has proven challenging and planning is well underway to have Vietnamese law enforcement officers seconded to Police Scotland within the next 12 months. They will work in collaboration with the NCA and Border Force and will assist greatly in engaging with Vietnamese victims and building a picture of their journey to and within the UK.

In response to the significant increase in Vietnamese victims of trafficking referred to the NRM, Police Scotland has created a dedicated team under Operation Filibeg. The scope of this team is to build a comprehensive intelligence picture of the experience of trafficking victims and the networks of criminals who exploit them. The team will work with national and international law enforcement agencies, local authorities, third sector partners and victims themselves to improve understanding of this complex issue and to direct Police Scotland's efforts to bring those involved in human trafficking and exploitation to justice.

The GLAA have continued to provide a number of awareness raising and training sessions to frontline staff throughout Scotland. This has been done both individually and in conjunction with Police Scotland and Migrant Help. GLAA have delivered a number of sessions to local authority staff including those in Inverclyde, Glasgow City and Fife. GLAA have also delivered sessions to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and to the Angus Growers Forum.

GLAA have been involved in a number of investigations alongside Police Scotland including a large operation in Fife where over 100 staff from various agencies were deployed, ensuring the welfare of workers was the primary objective.

GLAA are working with a number of partners to both re-establish working relationships and create new opportunities for joint working and intelligence sharing and this is something which will continue over the next year and beyond.

Since April 2016, HMRC have visited 779 businesses within Scotland where they have suspected illegal working. Since May 2018, HMRC have met 232 inbound flights between Glasgow and Edinburgh airports, interacting with 1,318 individuals.

HMRC find that there is a tax compliance issue in about 80% of the businesses it visits:

  • In some instances – particularly where the business has just started and the owner is inexperienced – HMRC provide assistance to the owner so as to ensure future compliance;
  • Where the business has failed to register with HMRCi.e. is a 'ghost' – HMRC refer it to their Hidden Economy Team;
  • Where there are National Minimum Wage issues, HMRC refer to that team;
  • Where there is evidence of tax evasion but the amounts at risk are modest, HMRC refer to their Individuals & Small Business Compliance teams; and
  • Where the amounts at risk may be significant or the owner operates a number of businesses or there is suspicion that the business is fronting or has links to organised criminal activity, HMRC retain these cases for investigation.

Around 70% of cases where HMRC find compliance issues will be subject to some form of review which may result in enforcement action. Visits are planned using a risk based approach and represent disruptive activity themselves.

"Psychological support is fundamental to being able to use other support and recover."

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

Since the introduction of the Human Trafficking & Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015, over a thousand human trafficking related crimes have been recorded for investigation under the Scottish Crime Recording Standards with 46 cases reported to the COPFS for consideration of prosecution. There is a significant difference between these numbers as a reported case may often include a number of crimes, the human trafficking crime heading covers a wide range of different offences which, after investigation, may be changed to reflect the circumstances of the case.

Operation Synapsis

Operation Synapsis was a Police Scotland led investigation, which commenced in September 2014. The operation was a joint investigation with the Metropolitan Police Service and Slovakian Police. The investigation related to the trafficking of a number of Slovakian females aged approximately 18-25 years of age, who were trafficked from Slovakia to the UK for the purposes of sham marriages.

A number of the trafficked females had also been sexually exploited as prostitutes. Fourteen potential victims of trafficking (PVoT) were identified and supported as a result of the operation. The females recruited were generally vulnerable individuals from impoverished backgrounds; they had poor levels of education and were tricked into coming to the UK with the promise of legitimate employment or some form of financial reward.

The females were trafficked by bus from the south east of Slovakia through Europe to seaports in the south of England before onward travel to Glasgow. The main principle was assisted by a number of Slovakian nationals, both in Slovakia and Glasgow, many of whom were direct or extended family members. The majority of PVoTs resided briefly with the main principle or his family members prior to being sold.

A fee of anywhere from £3000 to £8000 was paid to the traffickers for each female exploited. Following the 'marriage', the females were expected to reside with the purchaser or they would be re-trafficked or forced into prostitution.

In October 2019, four members of the crime group were convicted of a number of offences and sentenced to a total of 36 years in prison. Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Orders were also obtained in respect of all accused.

On 7 November 2019 at Edinburgh High Court, a Romanian male was found guilty of human trafficking by exploiting the labour of five persons in an agricultural setting. The victims were made to carry out heavy manual labour for very little pay while the accused deducted large amounts of money from their wages in payment for their sub-standard living accommodation. The court imposed a TEPO on top of a non-custodial sentence to prevent further offending and protect potential victims. This brought the total number of TEPOs granted to eight.

Between January and March 2020, 12 cases involving 24 persons have been reported to the COPFS in connection with human trafficking. A number of victims including UK nationals have been identified and safeguarded as a result of these arrests.

Between implementation of the Human Trafficking & Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 and 31 March 2020, COPFS has received 46 cases from Police Scotland which have included charges in terms of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015.

  • In 21 of those 46 cases, prosecutors have taken action in relation to charges in terms of the 2015 Act.
  • In 4 of those 21 cases, 5 individuals have been convicted of charges in terms of the 2015 Act.
    • In 5 of those 21 cases, the accused person was acquitted of a charge in terms of the 2015 Act. (In 3 of these cases the accused person was convicted of another charge).
    • In 3 of those 21 cases, no further action was taken in relation to charges in terms of the 2015 Act.
    • In 9 of those 21 cases, proceedings are ongoing in relation to charges in terms of the 2015 Act.
  • In 9 of those 46 cases, no action was taken in relation to charges in terms of the 2015 Act but action was taken in relation to other charges.
  • In 10 of those 46 cases, a decision on whether to take action in respect of all charges is being considered.
  • In 6 of those 46 cases, prosecutors decided to take no action in respect of all charges at the outset.

COPFS has continued to centrally monitor cases, which involve offences that, on conviction, trigger the power of the Courts to impose TEPOs. In total, nine people have been convicted of relevant offences in terms of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 since TEPOs came into effect. Of those individuals, eight have been made subject to TEPOs.

Looking Forward

The increasing numbers of victims being trafficked to, and exploited within, Scotland continued in 2019. The number of reports to the COPFS and TEPO applications are also on the rise while TEROs are being considered as part of disruption tactics. Current intelligence and crime trends also suggest there is no evidence that the increase in trafficking activity will decrease in the short or medium term. This increase along with the lessons learned from the previous three years have informed and transformed the efforts of the Action Area 2 Group and has resulted in Police Scotland proposing a restructure of the National Human Trafficking Unit, including a significant uplift in numbers of officers, to transform its investigative capabilities. This will continue to be supported by a network of specialist human trafficking Divisional investigators and provision of awareness and specialist training to practitioners. This model will put Scotland at the forefront of human trafficking and exploitation investigation in the UK.

Police Scotland will strengthen its working relationships and alliances with other UK law enforcement agencies including the COPFS, Modern Slavery Units in other police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service through continued participation in the UK Prosecutors' Strategic Group to ensure a joined up approach throughout the UK.

The UK's decision to leave the European Union may have a significant impact on the number of persons being trafficked to and exploited in Scotland. This is set against a background of major increases in the numbers of persons being entered into the NRM process. Continued collaboration with local, national and international partners, including Romanian and Vietnamese law enforcement agencies aids understanding as to why Scotland is an attractive destination and how such criminal activities can be disrupted. Romanian Officers have been seconded to Police Scotland and embedded within the International Unit to assist with investigations including human trafficking and exploitation and to improve international working relations. The secondments are for a fixed period and agreement has been reached for this arrangement to continue for the foreseeable future.

Awareness raising of the criminal exploitation of vulnerable UK victims of human trafficking is ongoing. Work to increase opportunities around "County Lines" continues with a focus on the application of human trafficking offences in charges against perpetrators. Scotland is known to be an importer of "County Lines" activity with no known exporter drug networks.

Action Area 2 will tackle the issue of national and international labour exploitation, an area of criminality which often happens in remote and 'out of sight' locations such as offshore, farm and manufacturing settings. Regional human trafficking leads will be appointed with the remit of determining the extent of such exploitation and developing strategies to effectively tackle this including collaborative working with HMRC, Border Force and the GLAA.

The UK Modern Slavery Operational Prevention Group brings together operational partners from across government to seek opportunities to collaborate on action to prevent modern slavery in the UK, and to share intelligence and expertise to support one another in this work. 'Preventing modern slavery' involves work to prevent both victims and offenders from becoming involved in modern slavery, early interventions and managing the consequences of exploitation. Action Area 2 partners will contribute to the Group.

The CATRiS are a coordination unit for academic research on trafficking, including human trafficking in Scotland. The consortium was created in 2018 with a view to becoming a repository of knowledge in this field and to link up researchers previously working in silos to share research topics and results. The aim of the consortium is to reduce duplication of effort and ensure previously unpublished work is available to others working in the field. CATRiS are in the early stages of preparing funding bids for their work and Police Scotland will look for opportunities to collaborate and engage where possible. Further information on CATRiS is available in section 3.

Police Scotland launched a successful marketing campaign in October 2018 to coincide with Anti-Slavery Day which highlighted trafficking for sexual exploitation. This included posters, press release and a social media campaign. Planning is underway for Police Scotland's second national marketing campaign to be run in 2020/2021 and this will align with the proposed Scottish Government campaign later this year.



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