Human trafficking and exploitation strategy

Our strategy to work with partners to make Scotland a more hostile place for human trafficking.

Section 2: Trafficking and Exploitation in Scotland - Background and Evidence

The Law

The offence of human trafficking is defined in section 1 of the 2015 Act as the recruitment, transportation or transfer, harbouring or receiving or exchange or transfer of control of another person for the purposes of exploiting them. The arrangement and facilitation of these actions also constitutes the offence. This offence does not always require coercive means such as threats or intimidation to be present and it is irrelevant if the victim 'consented' to any part of the action. It also does not require the victim to have been moved.

The offence of 'slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour' is defined in section 4. A person commits an offence where they know or ought to know that they are holding another person in slavery or servitude. A person also commits an offence where the person knows or ought to know that they are requiring another person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Both offences now carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The Act also takes forward improved protection for victims, through the Lord Advocate's Instructions on the presumption against the prosecution of victims in certain circumstances and by placing a duty on Scottish Ministers to provide support and assistance for victims of a section 1 offence.

Further, the Act makes provision for court orders to disrupt activity related to trafficking and exploitation.

A Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Order ( TEPO) is a court order restricting and disrupting the activities of convicted traffickers, available either when the court disposes of a case or on the application of the chief constable. The court can impose a TEPO when disposing of a case, either on its own motion or following an application by the prosecutor.

A Trafficking and Exploitation Risk Order ( TERO) is a court order with similar effect, applied for by the chief constable where someone poses a risk in relation to trafficking and exploitation. It does not require a previous conviction for a trafficking offence in order to be granted.

Identifying Victims

The National Referral Mechanism ( NRM) is a UK wide framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive the appropriate support. [2] The National Crime Agency ( NCA) publishes annual statistics on adults and children who have been referred to the NRM. Adults need to give their consent to entering the NRM and, for a variety of reasons, some refuse to do so. Thus, the NRM statistics will only ever provide a partial picture in respect of adults. Adults may withhold consent for a variety of reasons including a fear of authority or a desire not to acknowledge that they are victims. The consultation with victims highlighted the fact that even those adults who 'consent' to enter the NRM may not understand what they are consenting to.

In Scotland, adult victims of a section 4 offence of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour are not currently recorded through the NRM processes. This issue will be considered further as implementation of the Act is taken forward.

The Current Picture

There were 150 potential victims of trafficking identified in this way in Scotland in 2016. This is a 3.4% increase on 2015. 75 were females and 75 males, 103 (69%) were adults and 47 (31%) were children. 67% were women or children.

The referrals were for different kinds of trafficking and exploitation. Female adults were trafficked mainly for the purposes of sexual exploitation (57%), female children were trafficked mainly for the purposes of domestic servitude and labour exploitation (57% combined), male adults and children were mainly trafficked for the purposes of labour exploitation (84% and 73% respectively).

80% of all males trafficked, both adults and children, were trafficked for the purposes of labour exploitation. 48% of all females trafficked, both adults and children, were trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

Adult female Adult male Child Female Child Male
Domestic Servitude 7 2 6 0
Labour 10 41 6 19
Sexual Exploitation 31 2 5 1
'Unknown' 6 4 4 6
Total 54 49 21 26


Email: Anncris Roberts

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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