Super-complaint lodged against UK police for treatment of slavery victims

A super-complaint submitted to the UK government highlights the failings of police that are causing victims to fall through the cracks, and perpetrators to not be prosecuted. The complaint submitted by the charity Hestia to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary says that 2018 saw a 250% increase in cases, yet only 7% of these were referred to prosecutors, a figure which they find to be unacceptable.

 According to Hestia, the lack of understanding of police regarding the needs of victims has caused many to drop out of investigations and fall back into the hands of traffickers. This lack of understanding and training manifests in “poor practice”, in many cases causing severe distress to traumatised victims.

 One victim of modern slavery and sexual exploitation described her experience with police, stating that “[the officer] said he’d throw me out if I didn’t tell the truth. He shouted at me to speak up. When I asked him to slow down because I didn’t understand him, he accused me of insulting him … I didn’t want to complain after that, I didn’t want anything to do with the police. That’s why I didn’t report my case”.

The scepticism that victims face will impact on whether prosecution is carried out. Patrick Ryan, CEO of Hestia highlighted this, stating that “when a victim of modern slavery is met with disbelief instead of support, prosecution levels of exploiters remain exceptionally low, allowing criminals to stay active on our streets and victimise more vulnerable people,” he added. 

 Director of the Human Trafficking Foundation, Kate Roberts, told The Independent that more government investment in resources is needed to avoid “playing into traffickers’ hands”. “The police are overstretched, and they can’t be expected to be the social worker, the therapist and the advocate as well as the investigator,” she said.

For more information, see Hestia’s website.

Sonja Duncan