Briefing paper: the non-punishment of trafficked children

Category: Child trafficking

16th May 2017

Children who have been trafficked may also find themselves in conflict with the law through e.g. immigration or criminal offences. This briefing paper assesses the early impact of the new 'non-punishment' provisions, and considers whether the measures that have been put in place are sufficient to protect trafficked children.

International obligations and standards require governments to ensure that trafficked children are not prosecuted, detained or punished for any crimes they have committed as a direct consequence of their trafficking. The non-punishment principle itself is an essential element of a human rights-based approach to tackling human trafficking. The human trafficking and modern slavery legislation enacted in England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland in 2015, transposed to some extent and in different forms, this international principle.

This briefing paper assesses the early impact of the new 'non-punishment' provisions in respect of children, and considers whether the measures that have been put in place are sufficient to protect trafficked children. The research has shown that the new provisions have begun to make a difference for children where there is a proactive approach to identifying children who may have been trafficked by police and prosecutors. Nevertheless, serious shortcomings were found in the implementation of the non-punishment principle in the UK.

Unicef UK makes a series of recommendations within the briefing, including that:

  • The reasonable person test relating to the statutory defence in Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act should no longer apply to children;
  • Mechanisms are put in place by the prosecuting agencies and government to properly monitor the implementation of the non-punishment principle across the UK;
  • Further training and awareness-raising is made available for police, prosecutors, judges, legal representatives and relevant practitioners on the protections from prosecution available for trafficked children.
  • Download 'Victim Not Criminal: Trafficked Children and the Non-Punishment Principle in the UK here.

 

 

 

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