Angiolini defends lack of trafficking prosecutions

X-ray image of people being smuggled generic. Pic by Metropolitan Police
Image caption No-one has been convicted of human trafficking in Scotland

Scotland's top law officer has defended attempts to tackle human trafficking amid criticism that no-one has been convicted for the crime.

Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini said the criticism belied the fact that prosecutors had successfully disrupted trafficking in a "variety of ways".

However, she did acknowledge the low number of prosecutions.

Ms Angiolini's comments came in response to questions from MSPs, who are investigating the issue.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities committee, Ms Angiolini said few crimes falling under the relevant trafficking statutes were being brought before prosecutors, with only one going to trial at the High Court.

She added: "That's not to say there has not been significant activity in relation to human trafficking in Scotland.

"Not necessarily under the two statutes, but in relation to immoral earnings, keeping brothels - a variety of different offences which we have deployed against the background of human trafficking where we have not got sufficient evidence of trafficking.

"I think it's very important that's understood."

'Stockholm syndrome'

MSPs expressed their anger to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill last week over the lack of human trafficking prosecutions in Scotland.

The lord advocate agreed to appear before the committee to answer further questions.

She said awareness of the issues was being raised.

She added: "Human trafficking is seen by the public as something which is a marginal activity.

"We know it's a growth industry - 12.3 million people across the globe are being trafficked for a variety of purposes, not only sexual.

"We know that 3% of those involved in serious organised crime in this country, in Scotland, are involved in human trafficking."

Gaining sufficient evidence from victims can be difficult and holds back efforts to prosecute, she said.

A presumption against the prosecution of victims of trafficking was established to try to help them speak to the authorities.

Ms Angiolini said: "They don't want to die - they don't want their family to be murdered, or they don't want their family to be injured.

"Or they may well have developed what's known as Stockholm syndrome with very strong emotional bonds with those who trafficked them."

Trafficked women may also be earning more money than they previously had and be under the impression they are "independent", further holding back efforts to approach victims, she added.

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