Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has confirmed that the country will have its own standalone human trafficking legislation. The proposed Human Trafficking Bill for Scotland is expected to receive the support of the Scottish government before the current parliamentary session comes to an end, Holyrood magazine has reported.
The proposals were put forward by Labour MP Jenny Marra and the consultation that followed attracted over 50,000 responses from Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world. The only consultations to achieve higher response rates were those on smoking in public places and equal marriage.
The bill contains proposals that will help combat human trafficking by consolidating and strengthening current operational criminal laws and enhancing support for victims. It also endows relevant agencies with statutory responsibility so that they can collaborate with the government in the development and implementation of a Scottish anti-trafficking strategy.
Describing it as an “absolutely heinous crime,” MacAskill said that human trafficking brought indescribable misery to its victims through forced labour, domestic servitude or prostitution. Dedicated legislation will give greater powers to the police and courts, allowing them to find and punish the people who profit from the suffering of others.
Detection and punishment will not be the only aims of the legislation, MacAskill added. Effective handling of the problem will also require adequate support for victims. The Scottish government will therefore seek to introduce legislation that strikes a balance between the two; this means boosting the relevant powers of the criminal justice system without neglecting identification and support for human trafficking victims, the justice secretary added.