Publication - Progress report

Universal periodic review of human rights in the United Kingdom 2017: update on five thematic areas

Our update on progress in implementing UN Human Rights Council recommendations in five thematic areas following the third Universal Periodic Review of human rights in the UK in May 2017.

16 page PDF

339.6 kB

16 page PDF

339.6 kB

Universal periodic review of human rights in the United Kingdom 2017: update on five thematic areas
Human trafficking and slavery

16 page PDF

339.6 kB

Human trafficking and slavery



The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015[18] (“The 2015 Act”) consolidates and strengthens criminal law against human trafficking and exploitation, and improves protection, support and assistance for victims. Most provisions are now in force, with work underway to implement those that remain outstanding.


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 & 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 who they can employ and the property they can use, and they must notify police of any plans to travel outside Scotland. They are also restricted in the number of communications devices they may own.

Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy

The four key elements of the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy,[19] which was laid before the Scottish Parliament on 30 May 2017, are:

  • identifying victims and supporting them to safety and recovery;
  • identifying perpetrators and disrupting their activity;
  • addressing the wider factors that foster trafficking and exploitation; and
  • specific actions for child victims of trafficking.

Implementation groups have been established for each of the four elements and meet on a quarterly basis to drive forward action towards the goals of the Strategy.

A public awareness raising campaign was launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice on 29 August 2017.[20] Public surveys undertaken in spring 2018 show increased awareness of human trafficking, and also that more people say they would report concerns about trafficking to the police.[21]

A corporate group has been established, drawing together representatives from key businesses in Scotland who have a role to play in tackling trafficking. The group is looking into the provision of guidance and training to businesses on human trafficking; raising awareness and sharing best practice; and improving the quality of Slavery and Human Trafficking Statements.

On 14 June 2018, the first annual progress report on implementation of the Strategy was published.[22]

Support for adult and child victims

On 1 April 2018 changes came into force to increase, from 45 to 90 days, the statutory minimum period for which adult victims of human trafficking and exploitation recovered in Scotland would be provided with support, and for victims of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour. This is double the previous minimum period and is a longer statutory support period than anywhere else in the UK.

To reflect this commitment, as well as the increase in victims identified through the National Referral Mechanism, the Scottish Government has increased funding to two organisations that support trafficking victims in Scotland: Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) and Migrant Help, and has established a three-year funding agreement to provide greater stability. Over £3 million has been committed over a three-year period. In addition, the Scottish Government has increased funding for psychological trauma support for adult trafficking victims through The Anchor – a 65% increase to £115,000 for 2018-19.

Children are supported through the child protection system and eligible children are given the additional support of an independent child trafficking guardian. Where a child for whom no one in the UK holds parental rights or responsibilities has been, or is suspected of having been, trafficked, the 2015 Act makes provision for an independent child trafficking guardian to be appointed to provide additional assistance and support. A consultation with stakeholders is planned regarding the roles and responsibilities of this new guardianship service, which will work alongside existing statutory provision.

The 2015 Act also requires relevant authorities to presume that a victim of human trafficking is a child in circumstances where the age of a victim is uncertain but there are reasonable grounds to believe that the victim is a child (under 18 years of age). To reflect this change, the 2012 Age Assessment Guidance for social workers has been revised.[23]


Email: David Holmes