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26 February 2016, 08:53
Prosecutors from across the UK have signed up to new commitments to tackle human trafficking.
Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, is hosting a meeting in London on Friday looking at ways organisations can work together to react to the changing nature of trafficking around the world.
The summit follows a similar one in October 2014 at the Scottish Parliament in which agencies fighting crime were brought together for the first time to discuss how best to detect and prosecute cases.
Since then, Holyrood has passed legislation which creates a specific offence of human trafficking as well as increasing the maximum penalty for offenders to life imprisonment.
Ms Saunders, Scotland's Lord Advocate and the Public Prosecutor for Northern Ireland have now signed up to an action plan. The Director of Public Prosecutions for Ireland also took part in discussions.
The commitments set out ways in which the three organisations will work closely together in order to disrupt networks, prosecute traffickers and safeguard victims' rights.
Speaking ahead of the summit, Scotland's top law officer Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said the meeting with the heads of prosecution was vital.
"This offending doesn't recognise nationalities or borders, it exploits the vulnerable, it exploits people who are economically poor wanting a better life,'' he said.
"There's been a whole series of meetings in the intervening period from 2014 resulting in this agreement which will be published.
"There are three main themes to it. Firstly, there's co-operation - which is unprecedented, I think, across one area of criminality.
"The heads of prosecution have agreed to work together, to share information, to meet and share intelligence and evidence if there are any cases which cross borders.
"The second element is to agree that there is a real focus on the victim of human trafficking where the complex dynamic is that victims don't often know they are victims because of the nature of the crime, the grooming, the coercive control and the dependence the victim has on the trafficker.
"The third aspect of the agreement is training and sharing knowledge so that we have our prosecutors skilled up as best as possible with the most up-to-date intelligence and information available.''
Ms Saunders said: "Trafficking and slavery are abhorrent crimes.
"The profile of trafficking continues to change and signing up to these commitments means that we can work more effectively across the UK in order to tackle these crimes.
"We are committed to working with our prosecuting partners and police forces at home and abroad in order to bring the strongest possible cases against those who seek to traffic and enslave.
"We must adapt to meet that challenge. We have seen an increase in trafficking people for the purpose of sham marriages and it is also now the case that the number of victims, many of whom are men, trafficked to be labourers or domestic workers is exceeding those for sexual exploitation.
"We will continue to develop bespoke training for police and prosecutors and share our experiences and learn from each other on how best to prosecute these cases.''