Growing number of children identified as possible victims of modern slavery

Police found 27 victims of modern slavery living in Avon and Somerset.

A growing number of children are being identified as possible victims of modern slavery - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

An increasing number of children are being identified as potential victims of modern slavery in Suffolk, according to latest figures.

A total of 24 under 18s were among the 33 people identified under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) as a result of Suffolk police investigations between the beginning of April and the end of June.

During the previous quarter of 2021, from January to March, 15 children and eight adults were referred to the national mechanism, while 13 children and four adults were referred during the same quarter of last year – in the months preceding the Covid-19 pandemic.

Modern slavery encompasses human trafficking, servitude and forced labour – and can include criminal exploitation associated with county lines drug dealing.

Individuals recognised as potential victims of modern slavery through the NRM have access to specialist support for at least 45 days while their case is considered.

The total number of referrals for the year to June was 84, compared to 75 for the whole of 2019 and 55 for 2018.

Referrals also increased nationally, from 2,945 to 3,140 in the last two quarters, continuing an upward trend thought to be the result of increased awareness of modern slavery and the NRM process.

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The number of referrals received in the most recent quarter was the second highest since the NRM began in 2009.

People from the UK, Albania and Vietnam were the most commonly referred nationals. 

The figures were published days before new definitive sentencing guidelines for offences under the Modern Slavery Act.

Under the new guidelines, which come into effect in October, judges will give severe penalties of up to 18 years to offenders who expect substantial financial advantage and expose victims to an extremely high risk of death.

Detective Inspector Matt Bodmer, of Suffolk Constabulary, said: “The increase of referrals into the NRM mirrors that of the national trend. 

"We have worked internally and with partners to increase the awareness of signs of modern day slavery. 

"This is also reflected in recognising young people who are caught up in county lines are often victims of modern day slavery.”