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Human Trafficking (Prosecutions)

Volume 545: debated on Tuesday 22 May 2012

1. How many prosecutions the Crown Prosecution Service brought for human trafficking in the last 12 months. (108450)

The Crown Prosecution Service has charged and prosecuted 133 offences of human trafficking in the past 12 months, 1 May 2011 to 30 April 2012. The CPS prosecutes human trafficking-related cases under other legislation as well. The CPS is taking a number of steps to increase prosecutions, but is dependent on cases being referred for investigation by law enforcement agencies.

We have another Minister at the Dispatch Box who is also box office. May I encourage him to look at the problem where police spend time, money and effort breaking up criminal gangs of human traffickers, only for the CPS to charge them with much lesser offences, getting shorter sentences that are no deterrent to the human traffickers? It is essential that we prosecute people for human trafficking. What can the Attorney-General do?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that it is important that the right offences should be prosecuted, and if he wishes to draw to my attention instances where he feels that has not happened, I am always prepared to take the matter up. It is also right to point out that in deciding how to prosecute, the Crown Prosecution Service will look very carefully at all the surrounding issues, including sometimes the vulnerability of the offender, and may on occasion consider that the best way in which the public interest can be served is in prosecuting a lesser offence, but the principle must always be that the offence charged and prosecuted should meet the gravity of the crime.

I agree with the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and pay tribute to him for the work he does in this area. Some 100,000 people are trafficked around Europe every year. This is a cross-border crime that requires cross-border co-operation. What steps is the Attorney-General taking through the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan police to work with Interpol and Europol to find the perpetrators of this cross-border crime and make sure that they are brought to justice? It must be done on an international basis.

I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman. It is indeed an international crime. Within the European Union there are CPS liaison magistrates in other countries, the European Judicial Network contacts, the Serious Organised Crime Agency liaison officers and Eurojust to assist. Outside the EU the position is more complicated, but we have some liaison CPS working in a number of countries with which we have particular important links. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the extraterritoriality provisions provided for in EU directives have been implemented, although they have not yet been brought into operation, so that these offences can now be prosecuted here even if they were committed abroad. Ultimately, the CPS will be dependent on the evidence produced to it. That will come from the police or SOCA, and for those reasons, the CPS, while doing its best, will always continue to be dependent on the quality of the information it gets.

Does the Attorney-General agree that just as the CPS must increase the number of prosecutions against people guilty of human trafficking, it must also stop prosecuting those who have been trafficked, such as in the case of AVN?

Yes, I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman. As he knows, the CPS has a process in operation, which has been echoed by the Home Office, to provide protection for those who have been trafficked. He will also be aware that, with the encouragement of all political parties, the previous Government signed up to providing protection against deportation for those who had been trafficked.

As the tragedy of human trafficking crosses all regions of the United Kingdom, what recent discussions have been held with the devolved Administrations?

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. The best thing I can do is write to him. I am perfectly aware that the CPS liaises extensively with the CPS in Northern Ireland and the Lord Advocate’s Department in Scotland, and I will provide him with that information.