William Eichler 30 March 2022

‘Shocking figures’ reveal only 185 modern slavery prosecutions

‘Shocking figures’ reveal only 185 modern slavery prosecutions  image
Image: HTWE/Shutterstock.com.

There have only been 185 prosecutions under modern slavery legislation despite the fact that tens of thousands of children have been referred for support in child exploitation cases, new data reveals.

The Office for National Statistics has revealed that 21,000 young people have been referred for support under the legislation since 2016 in cases ranging from child sexual exploitation and abuse, to county lines drug dealing and forced labour on cannabis farms.

However, despite the high number of referrals there have been very few prosecutions.

Responding to what she described as ‘shocking figures’, Iryna Pona, policy manager at The Children’s Society, said: ‘This pitiful return means that many of those who prey on children are either allowed to walk free, targeting more young people for abuse or are convicted for other offences like sexual assault or drug dealing which do not reflect their predatory grooming and exploitation.

‘This results in shorter prison sentences and means that on release they are not on the radar of statutory services as individuals posing a risk to children and do not have to comply with any restrictions limiting their contact with young people.

‘Questions need to be asked urgently about why prosecution rates remain so low and about what more can be done to intervene early, prevent children being exploited and disrupt perpetrators.

‘There is still no statutory legal definition of child criminal exploitation and we would urge the Government to put that right as a crucial first step to turning around this worrying situation.’

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