DPP speech to the International Summit on Modern Slavery

|News, International and organised crime

Wilton Park, 21 February 2018


Many thanks, Julia, and thanks to Wilton Park for hosting us.

Thank you all very much for coming. I know that some of you have travelled a very long way to join us today and I am delighted to see you all. We are all here because of our shared interest in prosecuting modern slavery and human trafficking, and in delivering justice.

The scale of human trafficking and modern slavery around the world today means law enforcement and prosecutors need to do more to disrupt and prosecute the criminals responsible - and to confiscate their very significant profits.

Why we are hosting this summit

In September 2017, the UK Prime Minister, in the margins of the UN General Assembly, called on UN leaders to do more to tackle modern slavery. UN leaders agreed they will take action on modern slavery both domestically and internationally, and this summit is a key part of that commitment.

I want the summit to stimulate and provoke discussions between prosecutors across countries and continents to identify what more we can do together to strengthen our response. I hope that we will be able to inspire each other to do more and that we will come away with positive, tangible ideas and agreements to step up the level of prosecutions.

International crime

One human trafficking case can span numerous countries. Traffickers and those who assist them are likely to have committed criminal acts in their country of origin. They often then leave a trail of criminal conduct across a number of countries where victims have been exploited or harmed while in transit.

Once victims finally arrive in a destination country, they are used in multiple ways - in forced labour or domestic servitude, forced criminality, in sexual exploitation or sham marriages.

The profits made from these victims will also find their way across continents, while threats made to victims’ families and communities will prevent the crimes being reported.

How we tackle it

So, in order to bring successful prosecutions we need to be able to work across borders at speed to exchange intelligence, evidence, and provide other assistance between countries. Working in partnership with investigators and prosecutors overseas enables us to pursue investigations and prosecutions and support each other in trials. We also need to consider using powers to contain the risk of future exploitation and to prevent crime, even where the offences may take place beyond our territorial borders. We have found that using Prevention Orders and Risk Orders, introduced in our new legislation, to be particularly powerful tools in monitoring future conduct, as well as Serious Crime Prevention Orders in appropriate cases.

In the CPS we have benefitted from significant assistance from many of our partners here from Europe and have also learned from our experiences in developing effective prosecution strategies. Working with law enforcement and prosecutors in joint investigation teams in two or more countries, where parallel investigations are taking place into the same organised crime groups, brings significant benefits to all countries involved.

It allows speedy collection and exchange of evidence from the participating states without issuing formal letters of request. The UK is currently involved in 23 live joint investigation teams for human trafficking. In this way we aim to prosecute in one jurisdiction defendants involved in the trafficking in source and destination countries - and so tackling the whole trafficking chain rather than just one part.

I'll just briefly talk you through one of our cases that shows what we can achieve when we work together.

Case study - Hungary

In a case we prosecuted in London eleven defendants had trafficked and forced at least 250 women from Hungary into prostitution in 50 brothels across England, advertising them on internet sites. The victims were forced to hand over their earnings to the defendants. Eight defendants were arrested in England and the on-going co-operation between the UK and Hungary led to the remaining three suspects being located and arrested in Hungary.

European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) were issued by prosecutors and they were extradited to stand trial in London. Central to this successful prosecution was strong joint working with the Hungarian authorities following the setting up of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT). It enabled the police and the CPS to build the strongest possible case, leading to all defendants being convicted of trafficking for sexual exploitation, along with other offences. They were sentenced to a total of 60 years' imprisonment.

How else we can work together

As this case shows, we've found JITS to be a very successful way of tackling cross-border cases involving organised networks. However, it’s also worth considering, as the profile of these cases develops, what other innovative approaches can be used.

Innovation may come from ideas we exchange here with colleagues from other countries, trading "what worked for us" experiences, or simply trying to find ways of overcoming the barriers to being more effective.

Our legal systems may differ, but there are often many ways in which we can "import" new ideas, stimulate discussions among criminal justice partners back home, or simply challenge the status quo.


The United Kingdom is to depart from the European Union. A month ago, Prime Minister Theresa May set out, in her Plan for Britain, 12 priorities that the UK government will use to negotiate Brexit. One of these priorities was co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism and I welcome this commitment.

We need to continue to work together, to continue these high levels of cooperation to effectively deal with trafficking and slavery. If we have strong networks in place we will be able to continue and share our commitments for that cooperation.

What's in store

Moving on, I'll talk briefly now about what's in store for the next two days and what we hope to achieve from this summit.

So, this afternoon, we'll hear from the UK's National Crime Agency about the scale and scope of human trafficking and how it is linked to organised immigration crime. We’ll also hear about the opportunities and challenges for international prosecutions from a prosecutor based in the Netherlands.

Tomorrow, the Attorney General for England and Wales, Jeremy Wright MP, joins us to speak about the importance of government strategy and how governments can best work together.

We'll hear from UK and European colleagues about working more flexibly across jurisdictions. We'll hear from a colleague from Nigeria on how to support victims and witnesses. And we'll hear from Europol and others about how to disrupt the business model of criminal gangs. There will then be a chance to work together in groups to come up with practical steps forward.

The UK's Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, will join us later to talk about what he has found in different countries and how we can share good practice. And on Friday, we will focus on next steps.

More cooperation, building a network

I want this summit to launch a new phase of international cooperation between prosecutors and law enforcement agencies. We cannot allow these criminals to exploit people, evade justice and profit from their wrongdoing. By committing to work together, we can build stronger links and share expertise to tackle these organised crimes.

You have not been selected at random to be invited here; we believe that there is much work we can do together to bring about improved cooperation in our countries, to learn from each other and agitate for change where needed.

We want to develop an expert network - knowing who we can make contact with and be able to pick up the phone to ask for advice. We have Dr Rasmus H. Wandall with us, the General Counsel of the International Association of Prosecutors, who can support us in this respect.

Over the next couple of days, we will be focusing on a number of important objectives which we believe will help to bring about change.

We want to:

  • explore ways in which we can step up the level of activity across all our countries to confiscate the proceeds of crime;
  • identify ways to provide better support and protection to victims and witnesses so that we secure their evidence;
  • share best practice on how we use vital tools and resources such as Eurojust, Joint Investigation Teams, Europol and Interpol to help us; and
  • set the agenda for continuing bilateral and multi-lateral dialogue aimed at removing blockages and obstacles to effective international co-operation.

I hope that we can all rise to the challenge over the next two days and work together so that we can deliver justice wherever these crimes occur. I would be very grateful for your active participation in discussing how we can achieve these objectives to the benefit of us all. Please do join in full and frank discussions.

Thank you.

Further reading