UK Human Trafficking Centre

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 23rd March 2009.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen Conservative, Totnes 2:30 pm, 23rd March 2009

If she will take steps to ensure that the UK Human Trafficking Centre provides training courses on human trafficking for all police forces.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

The UKHTC, in conjunction with the National Policing Improvement Agency, has developed a training programme on human trafficking for all new police recruits, police community support officers, special constables and community officers as part of their core training. In addition, the UKHTC will provide continuous development for the current single points of contact in each force.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen Conservative, Totnes

In view of the number of trafficked women who have been found outside city centres following police raids under Pentameter 2 and the fact that only one police officer out of 3,500 in Devon and Cornwall constabulary has been on a training course and understands anything about trafficking, can the Minister explain why that force was told recently that the UKHTC will no longer do any training? What are the police supposed to do?

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

Representing the constituency that he does, the hon. Gentleman is right to make the general point that the victims of human trafficking are not concentrated only in city centres. The evidence from Pentameter 2 was that they can be found in any area of the country, urban or rural. The hon. Gentleman says that only one police officer in his local force has been trained, but he might be referring to the single point of contact. Every police force in the country has a single point of contact, but numerous police officers receive training in human trafficking. For example, every police officer in the country has been sent a DVD produced by UKHTC to raise awareness of the issue. Training in human trafficking is given in the initial police learning and development programme, the special constable initial programme and the PCSO programme. That will be fully in place by the end of this month, and by the end of the year it will be extended to initial training for detectives, domestic violence training, public protection officer training, road policing training and the National Policing Improvement Agency trafficking and senior investigating officer training. That will all be overseen by the UKHTC, and plenty of work is being done to ensure that police officers are aware of that horrible crime, should they come across it.

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Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

Will my hon. Friend have a discussion with the Association of Chief Police Officers to try to ensure that police are trained to implement the new prostitution offences in the current Bill in a way that encourages men to report trafficking? The police will need to be trained to do that properly. Will he discuss with Tim Brain or the relevant chief constable how to ensure that that happens?

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

I thank my hon. Friend for that extremely important question. I shall speak to Tim Brain, chief constable of Gloucestershire, about this matter should the new strict liability offence in the Policing and Crime Bill go through. As Mr. Steen said, it is one thing to have laws in place, but it is another to ensure that police officers have the training and the confidence to use them.

Although the new strict liability offence is controversial, by changing the way we look at such things and by putting the onus in most circumstances on the man, for the first time, to consider whether the person whom he is paying for sex is being exploited or has been trafficked, we will get a lot further with tackling this crime than we have before. I shall certainly talk to the relevant police officers.

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Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

Will the Minister kindly update the House on his conversations with his counterparts in the countries from which many of these people are trafficked? Will he comment in particular on whether any progress has been made in ensuring that those countries take this crime as seriously as it ought to be taken?

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

In the EU—as we know, some trafficking occurs within the EU—there has certainly been a lot of discussion. The EU trafficking action plan was published just over a year ago. There have been other discussions. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Mr. Campbell, attended a conference in Brazil recently where all the countries came together to discuss child exploitation and trafficking. We are supporting numerous charities as they try to highlight the fact that in some countries some offers that seem too good to be true are too good to be true. I expect and hope to go to China and Vietnam in the not-too-distant future to raise the issues there. This is a huge problem that needs global action, not just at EU level but at United Nations level, so that we can ensure that we raise awareness not only in this country but across the globe.

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