Modern slavery offences sentencing guidelines published

The Sentencing Council has published the first sentencing guidelines for offenders convicted of Modern Slavery offences including slavery, forced labour, human trafficking or an offence committed to facilitate human trafficking.

The new guidelines, which were developed following consultation and come into effect on 1 October 2021, will give judges and magistrates dedicated guidelines to follow when sentencing offenders guilty of offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. They apply to England and Wales.

The guidelines apply to adult offenders and cover the following offences:

  • Holding someone in slavery, servitude and forced labour (section 1), including physical restraint or imprisonment, threats or treatment which make escape from their position an impossibility;
  • Human trafficking – transporting people for purposes of exploitation (section 2), which may involve recruiting, harbouring, receiving or transferring people cross-border;
  • Committing an offence with the intention of committing a human trafficking offence (section 4);
  • Breach of a slavery and trafficking prevention order or a slavery and trafficking risk order (section 30).

Under the guidelines:

  • Offenders coerced or intimidated into committing slavery or human trafficking offences or are themselves victims, will have that fact recognised by the courts, which could see them receive comparatively lower sentences, where appropriate.
  • The harm caused to victims may not always be obvious, and the guidelines direct the courts to make sure they consider all the facts of the case, even where a victim is unwilling or unable to give evidence.

Modern slavery offences, which come under the Modern Slavery Act (MSA) 2015 (external link, opens in a new tab), cover a broad range of offending, and the nature of the offences can differ. There are currently no sentencing guidelines for these offences.