All seven Labour/Co-op Party police and crime commissioners in England and Wales have written to home secretary Suella Braverman, calling on her to appoint an independent anti-slavery commissioner.
In the letter, Alun Michael, Emily Spurrell, Jeff Cuthbert, Kim McGuinness, Andy Dunbobbin, Joy Allen and Alan Billings say the post should be filled to help police forces and authorities around the country tackle modern slavery.
“Government is dragging its feet,” writes Spurrell, the PCC for Merseyside, in a post on the Party website. “Despite an obligation under Part 4 of the Modern Slavery Act to appoint an independent anti-slavery commissioner, the home secretary has left the post vacant since April 2022.
“It is dismaying and frustrating that Suella Braverman has refused to appoint to the post, and there seems precious little movement in terms of recruitment.”
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She praises the work of police in tackling the issue. “As far back as 2017, the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Programme was established to support police forces in England and Wales in their delivery of a consistent and effective response to cases of modern slavery,” she writes.
“As a result, more victims have been protected and supported, and forces have a closer collaboration with the Crown Prosecution Service in the planning and development of complex modern slavery investigations.”
But to continue this, a dedicated comissioner is needed, “encouraging good practice in prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of slavery and human trafficking offences, as well as the identification of victims.”
She adds: “It is almost as if the government is backpedalling on its previous ironclad commitment to tackle modern slavery.”
Modern slavery has been a key campaigning issue for the co-op movement for several years, with the Co-op Group helping set up the Bright Future work placement scheme and the Party launching a Modern Slavery Charter, which has signed up more than 100 councils pledging to keep exploitation out of their supply chains. At national level, the Party has pushed to ensure all public bodies monitor their supply chains for modern slavery.
Efforts continue on local level, adds Spurrell, citing her own relaunch of the modern slavery and trafficking network in Merseyside to raise awareness and identity victims.
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