The Law

Parliament week 4 (2).jpg

New laws were developed across the UK in 2014-15.  Since some issues relating to human trafficking are the responsibility of the devolved assemblies and parliaments there is different legislation for the various constituent countries. 

England and Wales

Modern Slavery Act 2015 – This replaces criminal offences previously found in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004 and the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.  The Bill went through a long development process including a draft Bill scrutinised by MPs and peers, and many revisions were made before the Bill finally passed in March 2015.  You can read more about this process in our news archive.  Try starting with these: Report on the draft BillIntroduction of the Bill to the House of CommonsFinal passing of amended Bill in the House of Lords.

Sexual Offences Act 2003 Section 53A – Paying for the sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force (introduced by the Policing and Crime Act 2009)

Northern Ireland

Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) (Northern Ireland) Act 2015

This law began life as a private members Bill introduced by Lord Morrow MLA to the Northern Ireland Assembly in September 2013.  The Act incorporate changes to the criminal offences similar to those made for England and Wales in the Modern Slavery Act but also provides much more comprehensive provisions to support victims and deter traffickers including making it illegal to pay for sexual services.  Read more about this landmark piece of anti-slavery legislation and how the Bill is radically reshaping legislation on human trafficking and exploitation.


Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 - This replaces criminal offences previously found in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, and Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.

The legislation was developed following a proposal for a private members Human Trafficking (Scotland) Bill brought forward by Jenny Marra MSP in late 2013.  The law includes many similar provisions to those in the Northern Ireland Act including more extensive measures to support victims than are found in the Modern Slavery Act for England and Wales.   You can read about the Bill’s progress in our news archive, including the introduction of the bill, the amendment to provide child trafficking victims with independent guardians and improvements made to the Bill to ensure a strong presumption against prosecuting children for crimes committed as a result of exploitation. 

Council of Europe Convention

The UK has signed and ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The Convention came into force on 1st April 2009. We campaigned for the UK Government to sign the Convention.

The Convention gives provision for the care and protection of people who have been trafficked and steps that should be taken to prevent trafficking.

Find out more about the Council of Europe Convention.

EU Directive

The EU passed a Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims in 2011.  Along with other NGOs we successfully campaigned for the UK Government to opt-in to the Directive after the Government initially refused.  The deadline for bringing the Directive into UK law passed on 6 April 2013.  We continue to press the Government to implement the Directive to the fullest degree.

You can keep up to date with developments in policy and law in our news.