Coming into contact or being arrested will be scary for your child. Your child may be frightened of the police and the people exploiting them. They may also be frightened about how you will react.
It can also be a daunting experience for you. However, the police have a role in safeguarding young people from child criminal exploitation. Their role is to prevent child criminal exploitation, pursue the people criminally exploiting your child and protect children and young people from further harm. To do this, they need information about who is exploiting your child, where this happens and what this involves.
You should involve the police when you suspect your child is being criminally exploited.
This section provides a summary of the following:
- Modern Slavery Act 2015
- Youth Justice Blueprint for Wales (Welsh Government, 2019)
- What will happen if my child is arrested?
- National Referral Mechanism
Modern Slavery Act 2015
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 addresses the crimes of slavery and human trafficking. According to the Act, modern slavery has three main elements: Action, Means and Purpose.
Modern slavery refers to the coercion, force or exploitation of children and young people and taking, transferring, harbouring or receipt of them
The action is achieved using force, coercion, deception, power imbalance or threats. However, this does not have to be present for children and young people. According to the Act, children and young people cannot give informed consent to engage in forced criminality or to be abused or trafficked.
The action and means are carried out for the purpose of child criminal exploitation, financial and sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, domestic servitude, shoplifting, and fraud.
Under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 people are considered to be trafficked for the purpose of exploitation even where the exploitation has not yet occurred. This means that children and young people will be considered to have been trafficked even where practitioners have intervened before they were exploited.
Modern slavery can occur through relationships such as relatives or where children and young people believe they are in a relationship with the person exploiting them.
Some children and young people may not be physically moved (‘trafficked’) for criminal exploitation, but they can still be victims of modern slavery if they have been forced into slavery, service or compulsory labour.
While the Modern Slavery Act applies to Wales, the Wales Safeguarding Procedures provide detailed guidance in Safeguarding Children who may be Trafficked and the Modern Slavery Safeguarding Pathway.
Independent Child Trafficking Guardians (ICTGs)
Under section 48 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, Independent Child Trafficking Guardians are an independent source of help and support for young people who have been trafficked.
Every local authority in Wales has Independent Child Trafficking Guardians. This service is an independent source of advice, and Independent Child Trafficking Guardians can speak up on children’s behalf.
Once a first responder has followed the usual safeguarding and NRM referral routes for a young person, they should refer them to the Independent Child Trafficking Guardians service via an online form.
The Independent Child Trafficking Guardian Service will assess the immediate safeguarding needs of the child or young person and provide advice to the frontline professional or ‘first responder’ making the referral.
The role of the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian Service is to work with public and non-public agencies and parents through consultation and advice to ensure the young person’s best interests are recognised. They also provide expert advice to professionals about how to best support and safeguard child victims of trafficking. Where a young person has committed offences in the course of or as a result of being trafficked, the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian will ensure all professionals are aware of the non-punishment principle and section 45 defence in the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
The Independent Child Trafficking Guardian Service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by telephone: 0800 043 4303 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Youth Justice Blueprint for Wales (Welsh Government, 2019)
Under the Youth Justice Blueprint for Wales (Welsh Government, 2019), the police must adopt a child rights approach where young people are treated as children first and offenders second. The Youth Justice Blueprint for Wales has six main principles:
What will happen if my child is arrested?
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM)
When a young person is suspected of being a victim of child criminal exploitation, a referral can be made to the National Referral Mechanism, known as the ‘NRM’.
The NRM is the process used to decide whether a young person has been a victim of modern slavery and trafficking. The referral can be made by the police, local authorities, and some voluntary organisations.
There are ten main steps to a NRM referral:
You can appeal a negative Reasonable Grounds or Conclusive Grounds decision in two ways:
- Reconsideration. A first responder or practitioner can ask the competent authority to look at the evidence again or to include new evidence in their decision making.
- Judicial review. The young person can ask the court to review the decision.
A positive NRM decision should lead to better outcomes for the young person as services should safeguard, rather than criminalise the young person.
Even when your child receives a positive decision there is still a risk if the exploiters think your child has avoided prosecution through ‘snitching’. Therefore, you should work with services to ensure that you and your child are protected from negative repercussions and continued exploitation.