The Home Office is expected to publish draft legislation that will toughen laws on slavery, after home secretary Theresa May announced the plans in August.
Writing in the Sunday Times at the weekend, May said it was “scarcely believable that there is slavery in Britain”. She added that victims were “forced to exist in appalling conditions and often against their will”.
The draft version of the modern slavery bill will be published by the Home Office this week and will receive pre-legislative scrutiny before becoming formal in law.
Under the measures, those convicted of the most serious cases will receive life sentences, previously set at 14 years, and those already convicted of serious violent or sexual offences will automatically receive a life sentence.
James Brokenshire, crime and security minister, said, “We are taking action to better support and protect victims. At the same time the best way to reduce their number is to disrupt, convict and imprison the criminals involved. That is why combating trafficking is central to our Serious and Organised Crime Strategy and a priority for the new National Crime Agency.
“The modern slavery bill will also send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up.”
Brokenshire added, “All this is a good start, but we need everyone to play a part – government, law enforcement, business, charities – if we are to consign slavery to the history books where it belongs.”
Some campaign groups warned, however, that the bill may be too narrow in its reach.
Chloe Setter from the children’s rights charity ECPAT UK told the BBC on Monday, “There appears to be very little in regards to victim protection for adults or children which is something that we believe is crucial and should be at the heart of any bill trying to tackle slavery and trafficking.”