Police response to victims of modern slavery needs improvement

The police response to modern slavery may be causing significant harm to the public interest, a new report has found.

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Report on Hestia’s super-complaint on the police response to victims of modern slavery

A police super-complaint submitted by Hestia raised concerns that modern slavery victims were not receiving the support and understanding they need from the police.

Following a joint investigation into these concerns, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the College of Policing and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found that while the police response to modern slavery has improved, victims are not always made to feel safe and do not always get the support they deserve.

The report recommends that the Home Office, chief constables, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, victims’ commissioners and the Crown Prosecution Service work together to better understand victims’ experiences and what improvements they need to make.

It also makes other recommendations, including that chief constables should:

  • ensure staff have access to training and specialist knowledge, and understand victim support arrangements;
  • allocate modern slavery investigations to teams and individuals with the right skills and experience; and
  • work together with police and crime commissioners to understand what support victims of modern slavery need.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:

“Modern slavery is a complex crime which often goes unseen. Perpetrators will prey on the most vulnerable in society, and manipulate them with psychological abuse, fear and violence.

“It is encouraging that since our last inspection in 2017, the police’s understanding of and response to modern slavery has improved, with an increase in recording of offences and police forces getting better at identifying crimes of this nature. But identifying the crime is only the first step in ensuring protection and justice for victims.

“Policing cannot achieve this alone. There needs to be a seamless system of enforcement against offenders, and support for these extremely vulnerable victims.

“We thank Hestia for submitting this super-complaint, which has shone a light on where the police response to these appalling crimes has improved, and where more needs to be done. The experiences and needs of victims must be at the centre of this.”

IOPC Director General Michael Lockwood said:

“It is vital that victims of modern slavery and human trafficking feel safe and supported by the police and the criminal justice system as a whole. Those victims have already suffered at the hands of their traffickers and captors and should not be victimised again when they are seeking justice and their freedom.

“While it is pleasing to see the response from the police service has improved there is always more that can be done and our report makes recommendations which will go further to protect and support some of society’s most vulnerable victims. The super-complaints process can provide confidence and assurance to victims that action will be taken to improve the way they are supported.”

Interim Chief Executive Officer of the College of Policing Bernie O’Reilly said:

“This report is the result of a successful and collaborative effort between the three super-complaint organisations, and we are grateful to Hestia for raising concerns about the complex and largely hidden crime of modern slavery and the policing response to it. It is vital that policing is as effective as possible in combatting this dreadful crime of exploitation that causes so much misery to the most vulnerable in our society.

“We are pleased to see that since the 2017 HMICFRS inspection report on modern slavery and human trafficking, the police response has improved. We also recognise that further work needs to be carried out to achieve greater consistency when it comes to identifying and supporting victims of modern slavery across forces. Greater efforts should also be taken to ensure that victims feel supported throughout the investigative process, as their engagement and confidence in the police service is fundamental to bringing perpetrators of modern slavery to justice.

“We will now work with our operational colleagues and those across government to take the recommendation forward, so that our advice and guidance best equips policing to address this form of exploitation and abuse.”

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Report on Hestia’s super-complaint on the police response to victims of modern slavery


  1. HMICFRS, the College of Policing and the Independent Office for Police Conduct are responsible for assessing, investigating and reporting on police super-complaints. We have collaborated on this investigation and on drawing conclusions.
  2. The police super-complaints system allows designated organisations to raise issues on behalf of the public about harmful patterns or trends in policing.
  3. This super-complaint was made by Hestia about the police response to victims of modern slavery.
  4. More information about police super complaints can be found on GOV.UK.
  5. For further information, HMICFRS’s Press Office can be contacted from 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday on 07836 217729.
  6. HMICFRS’s out-of-hours Press Office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.