The Crown Prosecution Service is supporting victims, strengthening investigations, raising awareness among front-line professionals, and improving data collection. The data for 2013-14 show an increase in the number of defendants prosecuted. The CPS is actively involved in the development of provisions in the Government’s draft Modern Slavery Bill.
Yes, I very much agree. The forthcoming Bill will play a vital role in tackling the abhorrent practices of human trafficking and modern slavery. It will strengthen the law and protect and support victims. I am a member of the inter-ministerial group, and my officials and the CPS have been closely involved in developing these measures under the leadership of the Home Secretary, who is widely admired for her stance on this issue.
Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that an important part of the process of increasing the number of prosecutions for human trafficking is to ensure that there is sufficient support for victims of this terrible crime? What further support is the CPS providing to victims in this regard?
Yes, I entirely agree. A focus on supporting victims, stronger prosecutions and better data collection is key. In December, the Director of Public Prosecutions held a meeting with voluntary bodies and others, and he has produced an action plan that is very much focused on supporting victims.
My hon. Friend has raised this issue before, and it is very important. The new National Crime Agency has a focus on organised crime gangs at a regional, national and international level. The Crown Prosecution Service has officials in other countries working to strengthen capacity and ensure that prosecutions are properly evidenced. Joint investigation teams are an important feature. On 9 April at the Vatican, the Home Secretary set up the Santa Marta group, which is a group of senior enforcement officers from across Europe and the world. This was highly praised by Cardinal Parolin of the Vatican and by the United Nations.
What use does the CPS make of the National Crime Agency’s database to identify victims of human trafficking in order to ensure that any prosecution that follows takes into account the relevance of the fact that they have been trafficked?
The hon. Lady makes an important point. There needs to be a very strong effort to ensure that the victims of trafficking are treated as such in cases where it is possible that they should be prosecuted, if they are victims rather than the main perpetrators. All the resources of the sort she mentions, and others, are to be looked at. I think she will be pleased when she sees the Modern Slavery Bill in its new form.
What does the Solicitor-General think about extending the period of reflection from the 45 days that are currently allocated to a longer period to ensure that there is full support for victims of trafficking who may then be more willing to be witnesses in any prosecutions?
The hon. Lady will appreciate that that is not a decision for the Law Officers. It is important, however, that all support for victims should be considered within the inter-ministerial group, and I will certainly ensure that it is fully considered. In other terms, I cannot go much further.
Nigeria is the largest source country for people trafficked into the UK. Given that there is widespread fear that the girls who were kidnapped a month ago could become victims of trafficking, what special efforts are the Government making to work with and support the Government of Nigeria, and agencies there, to prevent that from happening?
As the hon. Lady may know, the Crown Prosecution Service has had staff in Nigeria and has worked hard on capacity building. The response to the Boko Haram outrage is being dealt with by other Departments, but I know that right across the House there will be very great concern for those girls and their families, and that is certainly something I share.