16:07 16 December 2013
Home Secretary Teresa May has unveiled plans to tackle human trafficking. The draft Modern Slavery Bill aims to increase the maximum custodial sentence for offenders from 14 years to life. The bill also aims to consolidate the offences used to prosecute those who enslave others into a single act.
Under the plans, offenders with previous convictions will automatically get life sentence for violent or very serious sexual offences.
Labour MP Frank Field estimated that there are 10,000 victims of slavery in the UK. However, Mrs May said: "The honest position is that we don't know whether that is the right figure, or whether there are fewer or indeed more victims in the UK.
"What we do know is that we have seen more referrals to what is called the national referral mechanism, where people are able to refer people who they think have been trafficked, who they think are the victims of modern slavery, into a central mechanism.
"The number of referrals has been increasing, and it's on that basis that we believe that we have seen an increase in this absolutely horrendous and appalling crime."
Meanwhile, Ben Cooley, the founder of human trafficking charity Hope, welcomed the proposal. "This bill is a critical step towards ending slavery in our country but going forwards we must all ensure that victims are supported so they don't disappear on the other side of initial after-care provision just to be re-trafficked."
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