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Improving support for British survivors of modern slavery

Research examining the experience of British nationals with lived experience of modern slavery in the support and criminal justice systems.

Statutory guidance on supporting victims of modern slavery in the UK does not acknowledge that the needs of British nationals with experience of modern slavery might differ and require a different approach.

In fact, when British nationals are identified as survivors of modern slavery, they are often signposted towards local authorities for support, many of whom remain poorly equipped to provide them with specialist support.

As many British people identified as potential victims have been exploited in criminal activities such as in the ‘county lines’ practice, this is particularly problematic in relation to those who face prosecution for crimes they have been forced to commit. Although the Modern Slavery Act provides a statutory defence in such cases, it’s yet unclear how the implementation of the defence works in practice.

A research team led by St Mary’s University Twickenham, collaborating with the Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull and Justice & Care, works to examine the dynamics behind the patterns of modern slavery in the domestic context; to identify barriers to support faced by British nationals; and to highlight interventions to support their recovery.

To assess the criminal justice system, the researchers will scrutinise judgements and appeals in order to examine how defences and prosecutions were run under the Modern Slavery Act.

The team will also use a survey to collect qualitative and quantitative data on British nationals with lived experience of modern slavery’s experiences of support services, as well as their specific needs and outcomes. The project aims to involve people who were formally identified as potential victims of trafficking by the National Referral Mechanism, as well as those who weren’t, but had experiences of modern slavery.

Additionally, the researchers will interview organisations, local authorities and police forces in England and Wales, as well as adult survivors, to explore experiences of the criminal justice system, the support services and barriers to accessing it.

The project will also address the role of wider factors in putting people at particular risk of exploitation, including discrimination of socially marginalised groups disadvantaged by inequality of wealth, power and opportunity, including in the lack of access to health care, education, social care and legal advocacy.

The project will seek to actively involve people with lived experience not only as subject of the study, but also in the design and implementation of it, including by involving survivors in the hands-on advisory board of the project.

This project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the Modern Slavery PEC call for research on Victim and Survivor Recovery

Project team: Dr Carole Murphy, St Marys University Twickenham, Dr Alicia Kidd, Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull, Dr Craig Barlow, Forensic Criminologist and consultant researcher and Tatiana Gren-Jardan, Justice & Care