Report (1st Day)

Part of Modern Slavery Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 23rd February 2015.

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Photo of Lord Judge Lord Judge Judge 4:15 pm, 23rd February 2015

My Lords, I rise because I have been quoted both in judgments and in evidence that I have given, and if I sit here and do not say anything, some might think that I did not agree with what I said last time. Well, I do.

I am concerned about child exploitation. I think that there are cases—and we have certainly been aware of them in court—where children have been exploited in circumstances which it would be difficult to describe as slavery or servitude or forced labour or even human trafficking. Children are exploited in many different ways and I do not think, if I may say so with respect, that the law caters adequately for those who exploit children who are not under some kind of parental or guardian responsibilities.

For that reason, I support the amendment. One problem with this area of the law seems to be that although we can often find the child who has been exploited we do not seem to be very good at hunting down through the chain of exploitation. For instance, we are very concerned, and obviously so, with children who come from abroad and are left in charge of cannabis factories. So far, we prosecute the child. We do not wait to see who is bringing the food once a week that is thrown through the prison door—because the house is no more than a prison. Where are they going? Who are they looking at? Who are they talking to? Who is making the money from the cannabis plant that the child is looking after?

The other feature that I want to draw attention to is how we relate to the provision on the protection of victims—that is, the defence under Clause 45. We provide a defence, which I strongly support, for slavery or trafficking victims who have committed an offence in circumstances that are defined, but the Bill speaks in Clause 45(1)(c) of “relevant exploitation”. Relevant exploitation in the Bill cannot address child exploitation of the kind that the amendment is designed to address. I ask the Minister to look at that, too.