If passed, the Modern Slavery Bill will be the first of its kind in Europe, and one of the first attempts globally to specifically address the ongoing issue of slavery and trafficking in the 21st century. Although the Society supports the proposals it found there to be a number of issues with the Modern Slavery Bill.
The main concerns are:
•the need to protect children
•lack of clarity, precision and simplicity of offences listed
•concerns that some criminal activity in relation to modern slavery will either not be caught by the provisions, or the hurdles required to overcome in mounting a prosecution will prevent effective law enforcement
•concerns the offences clauses in the bill are overly complex and do not reflect international definitions of trafficking and forced labour
•slave masters and traffickers will be able to use the ‘double criminality’ requirement (that the offence being investigated by the requiring country is also an offence in the receiving country) to avoid successful prosecution
•that the proposed anti-slavery commissioner will not be effective without being independent from the home secretary
President of the Law Society, Andrew Caplen, said:
‘The Law Society applauds the government in taking seriously the ongoing problem of modern slavery, and their plans to address the issue, but has reservations about the effectiveness of the proposals. The rule of law and the protection of human rights underpins the work of the legal profession, and of the Society. With the British government leading the way on modern slavery legislation it is of paramount importance that the bill safeguards victims effectively and sets an example in this field.’
On 10 December 2014, the Law Society will be hosting its annual Human Rights Conference. The event takes place on International Human Rights Day and includes speakers from the profession as well as human rights organisations on global issues including modern day slavery and trafficking.