David Lammy is right to encourage use of modern slavery laws, says human rights lawyer

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By Polly Botsford on

MP’s report recommends more prosecutions under modern slavery legislation

David Lammy MP

The Lammy Review, the MP for Tottenham’s investigation into the treatment of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals (BAME) in the UK’s criminal justice system, argues that the Modern Slavery Act 2015 should be more widely used to protect young BAME people.

David Lammy (pictured top) argues that the act, flagship legislation driven forward by then home office secretary, Theresa May, could be usefully adopted in the prosecution of gang leaders rather than simply arresting and detaining those individuals who are lower down the “criminal hierarchies”. The report says:

There is a settled narrative about young BAME people associating in gangs, but far too little attention is paid to the criminals who provide them with weapons and use them to sell drugs. A concerted approach to these issues would focus more attention and enforcement on the powerful adults much further up criminal hierarchies.

Lammy concludes: “New tools like the modern slavery legislation must be used to hold these adults to account for the exploitation of our young people.”

Michelle Brewer, a human rights barrister at Garden Court Chambers in London, says that that Lammy is right to look at the problem of young BAME people caught up in criminal gangs in this way. Brewer told Legal Cheek:

Society doesn’t see these young BAME people who get caught up in gangs like this as ‘victims’ of these frightening criminal networks. There is no appetite currently for the public authorities to investigate or prosecute those gang leaders. Instead, the authorities apprehend and detain these often very vulnerable young people and treat them as criminals.

She explains that this kind of activity could amount to modern slavery under the 2015 act: “There is a clear indication of child exploitation here. These gang networks are recruiting young people and this could fall within the definition of trafficking.”

Brewer is currently junior counsel in a human trafficking case involving a Vietnamese individual (referred to as ‘VCL’) where the claimant is arguing that there were similar issues of the public authorities failing to properly investigate a crime. The R v VCL case is now heading for the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Read the Lammy Review in full below:

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