POLICE in Scotland are failing to bring
human traffickers to justice and protect the
victims being forced to work as sex slaves,
a damning new report says.
The Scotsman can reveal the top-level study,
published today, accuses police of failing
to understand the true extent of human
trafficking and highlights intelligence gaps
that it says must be filled if traffickers,
and the criminal gangs to which they belong,
are to be caught.
The Scottish Government report also
criticises the authorities for not being
able to overcome the wall of silence that
means sex slaves and other victims go on
suffering even after they have come into
contact with police and other support
It points out that, unlike in England and
Wales, no-one has ever been convicted in
Scotland for human trafficking, and
recommends police consider seconding
officers from the victims' countries of
origin to provide "operational assistance"
so more ringleaders can be arrested.
The report reveals that 79 people believed
to have been the victims of trafficking came
into contact with authorities in 2007-08 but
it says not enough is being done to
understand the true extent of the problem in
Scotland, which could be far bigger. The
vast majority of the 79 were women thought
to have been trafficked into the sex
industry. About a third were from Asia and a
third from Africa, with smaller numbers from
eastern Europe and Pakistan.
Most trafficking victims were brought to
Scotland via London, having travelled there
directly from their home countries or
through other European states, the Scottish
Government's social research team found.
They were usually accompanied and met at an
airport by a member of the trafficking
Another major route was, via the Republic of
Ireland, from Belfast to Stranraer.
"It seemed that most entered the UK using
counterfeit documentation," the report says.
"Most were no longer in possession of such
documentation by the time they came to the
attention of the police or other agencies.
"In some cases, victims reported that they
had been forced to hand over their papers to
In a damning analysis of the performance of
Scotland's criminal justice system, the
researchers say no-one has been convicted of
human trafficking in a Scottish court,
despite several suspects having clear links
with organised crime.
One investigation uncovered several people
known by English police forces to be drug
traffickers, while a man employing illegal
migrants in his restaurants was engaged in
serious fraud, and money laundering and
importing contraband cigarettes.
Several men connected to a brothel at the
centre of a human trafficking operation in
Edinburgh were involved in cannabis
cultivation, distributing fake DVDs and
credit card fraud.
"In England and Wales, there have been a
number of successful prosecutions for human
trafficking, resulting in some of the
largest sentences in Europe," the report
"Whilst there have been prosecutions for
brothel-keeping and other offences in
suspected human trafficking cases in
Scotland, there have been none for human
trafficking to date."
The reasons given for there not being enough
evidence to prosecute traffickers include a
lack of witnesses and public awareness. But
the report also lists an "unclear
intelligence picture", translation
difficulties, and problems obtaining search
and arrest warrants, "including a perceived
tendency for sheriffs to favour the familiar
language of brothel-keeping instead of newer
legislation relating to human trafficking".
The report identifies "further training
needs among police and prosecution
Of "serious concern", it says, is that most
victims who come into contact with police
and support agencies flee before initial
interviews or shortly after it.
The report is published to coincide with the
coming into force today of the European
Convention on Action Against Trafficking in
Human Beings, and it asks searching
questions of senior police and politicians.
Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, said
he was determined to "take on" human
traffickers in the light of the report's
"Trafficking in human beings is an abhorrent
crime and the Scottish Government is
committed to work with the UK government,
the police and other agencies to recover
victims and clamp down on the criminals
involved in it," he said.
"This new research shows the scale of the
problem and highlights the importance of
genuine multi-agency working, to ensure that
victims of trafficking are given the support
they need and those exploiting them are
brought to justice.
"These criminals should be clear that there
will be no hiding place for them and,
working with the other members of the
Serious Organised Crime Taskforce, and on a
national and international basis, we are
determined to take them on and take them
Detective Superintendent Michael Orr, the
spokesman on human trafficking for the
Association of Chief Police Officers in
Scotland, said the report highlighted "key
priorities and issues". Gaining a deeper
cultural understanding of the different
ethnic groups in Scotland was one issue, he
said, "that clearly not only sits on the
"The identification of potential or active
criminal networks within these groups is
highly important," he said, adding that
steps had been taken to improve efforts to
tackle human trafficking since the research,
"and consequently there are significant
plans in place for the future".
LURED INTO A LIFE OF DESPAIR
WHEN Natasha (not her real name) was 18 she
wanted to leave Latvia to study in the UK,
but her family could not afford that so she
found a job in a local café.
One day a family friend told her she knew
people living in London who needed someone
to help them with their first baby. Natasha
was interested. She would be able to
practise her English, live in the UK and
send money home to provide medical care for
her grandmother. Natasha spoke to the family
in London by telephone and they arranged for
her flights and to collect her at the
When she arrived, she was collected by a man
called Alex and taken to a flat in London.
Alex raped Natasha and told her she was now
After three months Alex sold her to a man
called Dimitri for £3,000. He told her she
was now his girlfriend and he respected her.
They drove to Glasgow where he had some
friends. Dimitri said she needed to remain
as a prostitute so they could get a place of
their own and save up for their future
together. Devoid of hope, she agreed.
Dimitri would drop her off and collect her
from brothels in Glasgow. She was not
allowed to socialise on her own, and would
be beaten when she did. An end to this way
of life only came when police raided a
brothel while she was there.