The Modern Slavery Act is now law, and will make a huge difference to the lives of trafficked children. Photo: Unicef 2014 Irby

Victim, not criminal

Trafficked children and the non-puishment
principle in the UK

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The briefing assesses the early impact of new “non-punishment” measures in respect of children in the UK, and considers whether they are sufficient to protect trafficked children who find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system.

This work follows on from Unicef UK’s advocacy work on the Modern Slavery Bill and the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill in 2013-15, where we prioritised strengthening the UK’s approach to the non-punishment of children who have been trafficked.

Our research demonstrates that the new provisions have begun to make a difference for children where there has been a proactive approach to identifying children who may have been trafficked by police and prosecutors. Nevertheless, we found serious shortcomings in the implementation of the non-punishment principle in the UK, and the briefing sets out a series of recommendations, including:

  • that the reasonable person test relating to the statutory defence in Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act should no longer apply to children
  • that mechanisms are put in place by the prosecuting agencies and government to properly monitor the implementation of the non-punishment principle across the UK
  • that further training and awareness-raising is made available for police, prosecutors, judges, legal representatives and relevant practitioners on the protections from prosecution available for trafficked children.