The Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate recently conducted a review of the CPS response to modern slavery. The report describes an inconsistent approach due to a lack of leadership and oversight, and makes several important recommendations.
For many years I have highlighted the need for police and prosecutors to move towards a strategy of victimless prosecutions, similar to the step taken a number of years ago in relation to domestic violence. My view is based on protecting victims from identification and further trauma. Despite special measures such as curtains, video links to court - the traffickers are almost always likely to find out who the victim is. In addition, we continue putting the victims through trauma by making them relive their experience time and time again and in great details through sometimes hostile cross examination.
My view has always been that if we truly investigated human trafficking in the same manner as other serious crimes like rape and murder, we could rely less on vulnerable victims. Suspects can rarely challenge professionally collected forensic evidence but as long as we place vulnerable victims on the stand they can be challenged, put under pressure and at times destroyed by the hostile process that is our court system.
Now HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate has identified this as an issue in its report “The CPS response to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 report, December 2017”. The report states:
“The casework hub highlights the need to consider victimless prosecutions and build evidentially strong cases without victims because cases can fail when victims disengage, disappear, or leave the jurisdiction….. The CPS needs to ensure more cases are being built without victims to mitigate casework risks more effectively”.
The report also states “There is currently a significant disparity between the numbers of potential victims, the numbers that go through the National Referral Mechanism and the number of actual prosecutions. The volume of human trafficking referrals from the police rose in 2016–17 to their highest ever levels, but a smaller proportion resulted in a criminal prosecution and the volume of human trafficking convictions fell (1.6).”
Please read the report in full to see where things are not working and assisting in getting things right for the victims!