8: Victims perpetrating a crime: a critique of responses to criminal exploitation and modern slavery in the UK

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The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is a new criminal law encapsulating the British government’s determination to lead the world in combating modern slavery. In this chapter, I initially offer a broad overview of relevant tools in relation to forms of slavery and human trafficking, in order to provide the background that underpins the UK response. In the following sections, I argue that the Act, together with the whole UK strategy against organised crime, is not reaching its ambitions. This is because there is a failure to integrate civil and criminal legal instruments, as well as statutory safeguarding systems and investigative procedures, to address the problem as an output of systematic abuse and organised crime. The predicament of criminally exploited people is that they are victims who are perpetrating a crime. Investigation therefore needs to be conducted cooperatively between law enforcement and social care agencies. I critically evaluate policies and safeguarding responses. I identify how implementation of existing tools can be improved by developing theory-informed and integrated policy and practices. This chapter is rooted in my research using complex systems theory to develop a theoretical model, as well as in my practice experience as a professional investigator and expert witness to the criminal and civil courts.

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