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Legal Tools


Date came into force (dd/mm/yy)


International Legal Instruments

Implications for UK Government

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13.12.10 (agreed)

EU Directive on Trafficking

Designed to bolster current international anti-trafficking efforts by ensuring cooperation and common standards across the EU for the prosecution of traffickers and the protection of victims.


If incorporated into British law the Directive would create extra provisions to protect victims of trafficking, including witness protection


It would also make it easier to convict traffickers via the creation of a common EU definition of trafficking and the enabling of EU member states to prosecute perpetrators of trafficking offences carried out in other member states.


On 22 March 2011, the UK government committed to signing up to the new EU Trafficking Directive.



Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

Although the Council’s Conventions are not binding on members, the expectation is that members who do sign a Council of Europe Convention will introduce the legislation into its domestic law. The UK is a member of the Council of Europe and signed the Convention 23.03.07.


Encourages countries to adopt or strengthen legislative, administrative, educational, social, cultural or other measures to raise awareness about trafficking, identify the root causes of demand and to target campaigns and measures against demand. Details


23.09.03 United Nations Convention against Organised Crime

States that each country shall take appropriate measures within its means to provide assistance and protection to victims of offences covered by the Convention (Article 25). Details here




Ratified 09.12.06

United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

Also known as the Palermo Protocol (where it was signed), supplements the UN Convention against Organised Crime and commits ratifying states to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, protecting and assisting victims of trafficking and promoting cooperation among states in order to meet those objectives.

Requires those countries that have ratified the Protocol to introduce criminal offences to combat sex trafficking.

Requires under Article 6 that countries must consider implementing measures to provide for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims of trafficking, including appropriate housing, medical, psychological and material assistance, employment and training opportunities. Details


20.05.02 (published) UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights: Recommended Principles & Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking Not binding, provides governments with helpful recommendations on prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers and protection of trafficking survivors. Details

Date came into force (dd/mm/yy)


Domestic Legislation (UK)Implications for UK Government
01.04.10 Policing and Crime Bill 2009

Clause 14 makes it a criminal offence to pay, or attempt to pay, for the sexual services of a woman (child or man) who has been subjected to force. Force includes coercion by threats and other psychological means. Details


01.02.10 Coroners & Justice Act 2009

Individuals who force other individuals into forced labour (slavery or servitude) are guilty of a criminal offence. Details


01.02.05 The Asylum & Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004

Criminalises human trafficking for all purposes, including forced labour. Details



1.05.04 Sexual Offences Act 2003

Sections 57, 58 and 59 deal with trafficking into, trafficking within, and trafficking out of the UK for sexual exploitation, respectively.


Strengthens and modernises the law to deal with patterns of serious and organised criminality that intelligence suggests is prevalent but not matched by commensurate numbers of prosecutions. Details



12.08.04 Nationality, Immigration & Asylum Act 2002

This Act makes the trafficking of people for reasons of prostitution illegal. Details