Just one charge in Norfolk for trafficking
Norfolk Police has brought only one charge under modern slavery legislation since its introduction in 2015 – despite almost 100 recorded cases.
Modern slavery was introduced as a single, specific offence under the Modern Slavery Act, which came into effect in March 2015.
Since then, Norfolk Police has recorded 91 instances, according to Home Office data up to the end of December last year.
Of the 73 cases that had been concluded by the time the data was released, only one resulted in a suspect being charged.
Difficulty gathering evidence was cited as the reason for not bringing charges in 64 per cent of cases – 30 per cent where the victim did not support further action being taken, and 34 per cent where they did.
Police closed the case without identifying a suspect in 22 per cent of cases.
Examples of modern slavery include domestic servitude, forced sex work, or labour exploitation in industries such as agriculture, or in businesses like nail salons and car washes.
It can also involve criminal exploitation, such as children or vulnerable adults being recruited into the drugs trade.
Experts have warned that a lack of support for victims could be hindering investigations, after the rate of offenders being charged fell to a record low across England and Wales.
Police forces across the two countries have recorded over 10,000 slavery offences since 2015 – almost half of them in 2018 alone.
But just 3 per cent of cases concluded in 2018 ended in charges being brought, compared to 19 per cent in 2015.
The Human Trafficking Foundation said it was disappointing the increase in the number of victims being identified had not led to large increase in prosecutions or convictions.
“The lack of support and stability we provide victims is no doubt partly to blame for these low figures,” she said.
“Survivors of any serious crime would struggle to be able to trust authorities if they live in unstable accommodation with barely anything to live on, and do not know where they will be housed in a month or whether they will be made to return to a place that they know could lead to re-exploitation.”
She added that giving victims more incentives, such as the right to remain in the UK, would encourage more to help police “put their traffickers behind bars”.
The Home Office said the Government was committed to stamping out the “abhorrent” crime.
“Our world-leading Modern Slavery Act has led to thousands of victims being protected and hundreds of convictions,” said a spokeswoman.
“But we know there is more to do and are working with police to see what more can be done to improve their response to this terrible crime.”