Human trafficking is the trapping of people using violence, deception, or coercion and exploiting them for personal or financial gain. The National Crime Agency have said that it’s difficult to know exactly how many victims there are of human trafficking and modern slavery in the U.K. In 2019, of 10,627 potential victims of modern slavery that were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), officials believed that 8,429 were victims.
This year, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons focuses on the first responders who work to identify, support, counsel and seek justice for the victims of trafficking.
Lecturer for the Institute of Policing, Phil Parkinson, took time to reflect on his work supporting the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.
“Prior to entering academia, I had a very interesting career as a police officer. I found that I had a real affinity for dealing with victims of various crimes, along with a passion for investigative interviewing.
Amongst the highlights of my time as a police officer were the years I spent working in a specialist unit dealing with offences against and/or involving children, and intra-familial offences; in particular sexual offences. The experience I gained in that unit instilled in me a recognition of the need for the authorities to identify and protect the most vulnerable in society, together with an appreciation of just how powerless some people can truly be.
After leaving the police, I spent six years working with Lincolnshire Police as a specialist crime trainer, a large part of my role being to train police officers and other staff in interview techniques and how to use those techniques to obtain quality information from witnesses, victims and suspects.
I left the above role in order to form a training company (Zakon Training) together with a business partner. Amongst the contracts that we secured were the delivery of various training events for staff employed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).
The GLAA deal with offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and offences include keeping someone in a condition of slavery or servitude and also human trafficking. These are of course very serious offences that carry penalties up to life imprisonment on conviction.
Whilst I was involved in the design and delivery of all the training for the GLAA, such training covering various specialist areas, I was most pleased and proud to be involved with training GLAA investigators and other staff in advanced interview techniques used when obtaining accounts from witnesses, victims and suspects.
I am well aware that the GLAA staff I have helped to train have dealt with some very serious and high-profile human trafficking cases. I am proud to say that the training that I and the other Zakon Training staff delivered has upskilled many of the GLAA staff such that they became more confident in their abilities, and more sure of proving cases in court and thereby helping more victims.
Another specialist group of people that I have worked with through my association with Zakon Training has been police interpreters. Many of the victims, witnesses and suspects in human trafficking cases do not have English as a first language. Without the help of interpreters, it would be very difficult for prosecuting agencies such as the police and GLAA to obtain accurate and timely accounts from the victims in particular, or for suspects to be dealt with legally and ethically.
I have helped Zakon Training to deliver a number of workshops to hundreds of interpreters from all over the UK, covering such subject matters as their role in the police interview, and the recognition of modern slavery and human trafficking offences and victims.”
Join the conversation using the hashtags #EndHumanTrafficking and #HumanTrafficking on social media.
You can find out more about how to report suspected cases of human trafficking here.