Consultation on proposed guidelines for modern slavery offences

The Council has launched a consultation on proposed guidelines for sentencing offenders convicted of modern slavery offences, including slavery, servitude, compulsory labour and trafficking people for exploitation purposes.

The draft guidelines, which apply to adult offenders, cover two main offences under the Modern Slavery Act (MSA) 2015:

  • Holding someone in slavery, servitude and forced labour (section 1), including physical restraint or imprisonment, threats or treatment which make escape from their position an impossibility.
  • Human trafficking – transporting people for purposes of exploitation (section 2), which may involve recruiting, harbouring, receiving or transferring people cross-border.

The guidelines propose that courts reserve the most severe penalties for offenders in a leading role who expect substantial financial advantage and who expose victims to an extremely high risk of death, serious physical, sexual or psychological harm, or substantial and long-term adverse impact.

The draft guidelines recognise not just the physical and financial harm suffered by victims but also the psychological harm, which in many cases can be long-lasting. Victims of modern slavery are often already vulnerable in some way. The harm caused may not always be obvious, and the guidelines direct the courts to make sure they consider all the facts of the case, even where a victim is unwilling or unable to give evidence.

The culpability factors in the guidelines reflect the scope of modern slavery offending. Some operations are run on a large and sophisticated scale, with potentially substantial financial gain, while others are instances of individual servitude with little or no profit expected. There may be many different offenders involved, some of whom are central to the offending and others who are peripheral and may not be fully aware of the extent of the operation.

The Council has also published a statistical bulletin and data tables, detailing recent sentencing trends for modern slavery offences.