Tougher sentences could be imposed on those committing offences under the Modern Slavery Act as judges receive training on legislation (19 May 2017)

News that more than 1,000 judges have received training on the Modern Slavery Act has been welcomed by West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).

Mark Burns-Williamson, speaking after Tuesday's meeting of his National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network (NATMSN) for all PCCs, warned that offenders committing an offence under the Act could receive a life sentence.

"The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, told us this week that, thanks to work with the International Bar Association and the Judicial College, over 1200 judges have now received training on the Modern Slavery Act," he said.

"This is reassuring and sends out an even stronger message that those committing this vile crime will be dealt with severely by the courts as there were concerns over whether sentences were in full effect of legislation.

"This week saw convicted human trafficker Dawid Zielinkski have his sentence nearly doubled from 4 years to 7 years. I very much welcome the increase and the clear message this sends to people looking to traffick and exploit other human beings for their own gain."

Mr Burns-Williamson said that although National Crime Agency (NCA) figures had shown a 17 per cent increase nationally in referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) it didn't mean the issue was getting worse.

West Yorkshire Police have reported that in 2016, within West Yorkshire, 207 potential victims of human trafficking have been referred to the NRM.

"More people being identified means more awareness," he added.

"It means people recognise what modern slavery is and are contacting the relevant authorities there to help and support them."

Speakers at the event included Kevin Hyland OBE and Paul Broadbent, the Chief Executive of the Gangmaster's and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), who has written to Chief Constables urging them to use the GLAA's resources to tackle labour exploitation in their area.

The GLAA have new powers and remit to tackle exploitation across the entire labour market.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: "The meeting was very well attended and I was very pleased at how the network is progressing.

"The trafficking of people and modern slavery are terrible abuses of human rights, shamefully robbing people of their dignity, causing misery to the lives of the victims' families and the communities it affects," he said.

"We are doing some really pioneering work here in West Yorkshire and through the national PCC network, and I hope that the learning gained can be adopted elsewhere to help put an end to this truly vile crime."

If you suspect human trafficking or modern slavery is taking place reports can be made by calling 101 or anonymously through the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700. Visible signs can include anti-social behaviour, overcrowding or squalid living conditions, indicators of prostitution or a concern for welfare.

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2017