[back] Pedophilia

Scots police 'failing to tackle sex slave trade'

Unlike in England and Wales, no-one has ever been convicted in Scotland for human trafficking.
Published Date: 01 April 2009
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 agencies.

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 group.

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 an agent."

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 says.

"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 professionals".

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 findings.

"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 down."

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 trafficking agenda".

"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".


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 airport.

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 a prostitute.

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.