Human Trafficking

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 19th November 2013.

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Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton 11:30 am, 19th November 2013

What steps the Director of Public Prosecutions is taking to raise awareness among prosecutors of best practice in prosecuting human trafficking offences; and whether current legislation is being used to prosecute such cases effectively.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald The Solicitor-General

Guidance is issued to prosecutors by the Crown Prosecution Service and supported by an e-learning programme. Cases are being prosecuted effectively, and the Director of Public Prosecutions is holding a round table on human trafficking on 4 December for police and experts to strengthen investigations and prosecutions.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

Does the Solicitor-General agree that prioritising the issue of child sex tourism is critical and that robust action should be taken to apprehend, prosecute and enforce legislation against child sex tourists, as highlighted by the Stop it Together campaign recently launched by the International Justice Mission?

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald The Solicitor-General

I congratulate my hon. Friend and the all-party group on human trafficking and modern day slavery on their involvement and the campaign. New legislation came into force on 6 April extending the territorial jurisdiction to enable the prosecution of cases of trafficking where victims have been trafficked anywhere in the world. The CPS and I are committed to bringing perpetrators to justice.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

The Solicitor-General will be aware of the landmark case of L and others, decided by the Court of Appeal in May, which said that victims of trafficking should not be prosecuted, yet if I visit our prisons, I see in jail young Vietnamese trafficked to Britain to be cannabis farmers. What is he doing about that? Will he meet the Secretary of State for Justice to get those innocent victims of trafficking freed?

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald The Solicitor-General

The Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking was set up for the purpose of liaising across Government and has met very recently. The hon. Lady raises an important point: victims of trafficking should not be prosecuted for offences that arise from that. Of course, there can be cases that do not arise from their trafficking where they may end up before the courts, but the principle that she sets out and which the Court has adumbrated is one that the Government accept.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Given the international nature of human trafficking, has the Solicitor-General looked for examples of best practice from other countries around the world that best prosecute human traffickers and from which we might learn valuable lessons?

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald The Solicitor-General

My hon. Friend will know that the Government have liaison magistrates and others around the world helping to build capacity in that area. We look at the international experience, and it is important to do so; but having said that, the number of people prosecuted in this country for such human trafficking offences is increasing, and we are determined that that should continue.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Opposition Whip (Commons)

Tackling human trafficking requires getting tough on perpetrators and, as we have talked about, providing more support for victims. Given that two thirds of trafficked children rescued then go missing again, why will the Government not now sign up to the EU directive on human trafficking, which would ensure that independent guardians were appointed for child victims of trafficking?

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald The Solicitor-General

The hon. Lady is right that we should support the victims of trafficking, and a great deal of work is done to achieve that—for example, she will know of the work of the Salvation Army. I was very impressed, visiting the north-west area of the CPS, by the work being done and the substantial support being given to witnesses in order to achieve successful prosecutions. That work needs to continue and be spread.

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), DUP Westminster Leader

Has the Solicitor-General had, or does he plan to have, any consultation with the Northern Ireland authorities about the excellent legislation on human trafficking that is currently before the Northern Ireland Assembly? It would effectively increase the number of prosecutions of people who commit this terrible crime.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald The Solicitor-General

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, his hon. Friend Jim Shannon raised this issue with me at the last Question Time. Since then, we have corresponded, and we are certainly liaising with the Northern Ireland authorities who, in fact, sit on the inter-ministerial group.