These types of crime are often committed over county lines and involve the exploitation of vulnerable people by violent members of drugs networks and gangs to move and sell drugs across the country. The CPS has recently developed and published guidance that sets out its approach to such crimes.
I thank the Minister for that reply. Many more people, particularly although not exclusively young women, are trafficked for prostitution. What steps are being taken within the justice process to give them support and help them exit this abusive trade?
In the new guidance, the CPS has emphasised the importance of safeguarding vulnerable people. Of course, we have organisations such as the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which is a central point of contact for all agencies that work with victims of sex trafficking—for example when a victim is co-operating with an investigation to ensure that if they are of a foreign nationality their status in the UK is preserved during the course of the investigation.
My hon. and learned Friend is right about these crimes crossing county lines. I also think that vulnerable people are too often prosecuted, and not enough consideration is given to their vulnerability when the cases are being looked at.
My hon. Friend will be aware that the Modern Slavery Act 2015 contains provisions to protect people who are compelled into acts of criminality. Choices must be made at an early stage by police and prosecutors whether to treat them as defendants or, where appropriate, encourage them to co-operate. Many of these people are, frankly, victims.
The National Crime Agency just showed its “Invisible People” exhibition in Belfast. It is a harrowing portrayal of what individuals go through when they are exploited through prostitution or for drugs and forced labour. Are we winning the battle?
The hon. Gentleman graphically illustrates that this fact of life is in every town and city across our country. The idea that slavery ended many centuries ago is a fallacy and, once we face up to that—I think the police and Crown Prosecution Service are facing up to it—we are halfway towards dealing with this scourge. More needs to be done.