Child Trafficking Guardians for Scotland
Children trafficked in Scotland will now be provided with specialist independent guardians after an amendment was passed to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill during the Stage 2 Committee session today.
Proposed by Christina McKelvie MSP, one of the co-convenors of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Human Trafficking, the amendment will require the Scottish Government to make arrangements for the appointment of an independent guardian to assist, support and represent a trafficked child. CARE has been calling for a statutory system of such guardians or advocates for a number of years and we are very pleased to see this provision added to the Bill. Other MSPs on the committee tabled amendments highlighting weaknesses in the clause. Although these were not successful there is still the possibility of future amendments at Stage 3 to improve the clause.
Also discussed were amendments to criminalise the purchase of sexual services. Although there was some support for this proposal on the Committee many members expressed a desire for greater scrutiny of the evidence – which had not been possible since the proposal was not included in the original Bill at Stage 1. The Cabinet Secretary also opposed the amendments, but reiterated the Government’s intention to commission “independent academic research” into the issue, to be completed by early 2016. It is possible that these issues may be discussed further at Stage 3.
MSPs tabled other amendments including on the definition of exploitation, providing a statutory defence for victims prosecuted for crimes as a result of being trafficked, and providing a guarantee that victims of trafficking will receive at least 45 days support and assistance. None of these amendments were accepted.
Further amendments proposed by the Scottish Government were approved, including removing the term “travel” from the definition of an offence of human trafficking, clarifying terms about the exploitation of children and enabling Government to provide support and assistance to victims of other slavery and forced labour offences under future regulations.
The Bill will next be debated by the whole Parliament at Stage 3, most likely after the summer recess.