3. What progress the Crown Prosecution Service has made in improving conviction rates for offences of modern slavery; and if he will make a statement. (900854)
The CPS is dealing with increasing numbers of modern slavery and human trafficking offences, and the number of convictions for those offences in 2015-16 was 48% higher than the year before.
My right hon. and learned Friend will know that in counties such as Staffordshire there is a growing trend of gangmasters exploiting vulnerable people for things such as drug pushing. How can we use the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to try to restrict that? What guidance does he give the courts on this?
My hon. Friend makes a good point, which is that modern slavery offences are often found alongside other types of offending, in particular, drug offending. We already have strict penalties available for the drug offending elements of that kind of activity. What the Modern Slavery Act gives the prosecution, and then of course the court, is the opportunity to pursue the modern slavery aspect of this offending, which is hugely important. As I have indicated, we are starting to see an increased volume of those offences going through the courts.
Will the Attorney General join me in congratulating all those involved in the highly successful, high-profile recent prosecution of people involved in modern slavery? Such cases are very expensive to prosecute, so will he assure the House that the required money and resources will be available? This activity is endemic up and down the country, not just in London, and we need the resources for the police to be able to conduct these cases.
I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance, and there should never be any question but that where this type of offending is prosecuted successfully and convictions are recorded, people receive the appropriate punishment. In the case I suspect he is referring to, where sentences were handed down recently, a clear signal of that has been given. There were 11 defendants, all members of one family, as he knows, and they received a total of 79 years’ imprisonment. That is appropriate for offending of the type involved in that case—it was truly horrendous behaviour.
Which regional office of the CPS is performing best at prosecuting modern slavery and how might its best practice be rolled out to others?
My hon. Friend will be shocked to learn that I do not have that figure at my fingertips, but I will find it out for him. He will understand that these can often be complex investigations and prosecutions, as the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) has just correctly said. There may not be uniformity of experience across the different regions; some regions may not have seen many of these cases, whereas others may have seen a great deal of them. So we will have to be cautious in the comparison he invites me to make, but I will have a look at the figures and see what I can sensibly tell him.