Clause 23 - Slavery and trafficking risk orders

Part of Modern Slavery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 9 Medi 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:15, 9 Medi 2014

I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Members, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central for tabling the amendments and for giving me the opportunity to explain how the Government have framed the provisions to ensure that they are used appropriately to manage the risk of harm from modern slavery offences. The Government’s intention in proposing slavery and trafficking risk orders is to prevent modern slavery offences. As I have stated, prevention is a key part of the Government’s approach to stopping these terrible crimes. Clause 23 is intended to give the courts appropriate powers to manage the risk of causing harm posed by an individual who may commit a slavery or human trafficking offence, such that it is necessary to protect others from physical or psychological harm that would be likely to occur.

Amendment 79 relates to the test for imposing a slavery and trafficking risk order. The test includes a requirement that the order must be necessary to protect people from the risk of harm from a slavery and trafficking offence or offences. The amendment seeks to ensure that the level of risk of the new modern slavery offences taking place is established—that it is sufficiently serious before an order is imposed. The change is not needed because the current test provides appropriate safeguards, which have a similar effect in practice to the proposed amendment.

To meet the existing test set out in the clause, the court must already be satisfied that a restriction is necessary. A court can conclude that a restriction is necessary only if the risk that the restriction is intended to manage is real and substantial and if no lesser steps would work to address the risk. For the court to be satisfied that a prohibition is necessary because no lesser measure will manage the identified risk, it is implicit that it must be satisfied that there is a sufficiently serious risk that must be managed in this way. I can assure Members that the clause as drafted provides sufficient safeguards regarding the appropriate application of orders.

On amendment 87, the orders are drafted in line with other existing orders—for example, those relating to sexual harm, which leave the determination of which behaviours and scenarios indicate that an order may be necessary to the courts. Therefore, it makes sense to mirror existing legislation that is already working effectively. There is a risk that, in defining a list of scenarios, some behaviours of individuals who pose a risk might not be captured. For example, an individual prosecuted for an offence other than one relating to slavery or servitude, but where there is nevertheless evidence of a risk of future modern slavery offences, might not be covered by the amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central wanted confirmation that such orders would not be used as an easy get-out from prosecutions or used as an alternative way. Her view is that the high threshold means that they are no different to a prosecution. There is a difference between proving the risk of future harm and proving that a specific offence has been committed in the past. We need to focus on that difference. Where a specific offence has been committed in the past and can be  proved, we would expect a prosecution to be taken forward. However, there will be instances where the future offence is the risk. For example, someone might be convicted of a different offence, but it might become clear during the court proceedings that there is a risk of their committing future modern slavery offences.

Risk orders can also be used where somebody is awaiting trial, but the trial will not take place immediately. Protections will need to be in place for the victims. Victim safety is paramount, even in the absence of conviction. My hon. Friend mentioned the National Crime Agency’s point, which it made in oral evidence to the Committee, that the slavery and trafficking risk orders could be used where a prosecution could not take place because the victim was unable to give evidence. We all want prosecutions to take place, but there will inevitably be cases where the victims are just too vulnerable to give evidence—or are unable to do so safely—so that we can obtain a conviction. If a risk order can be applied for and obtained, that gives the public protection, because the individual cannot continue their activities.