Formal Inquiry opened into Human Trafficking in Scotland

Commission launches major new Inquiry into Human Trafficking in Scotland: Baroness Helena Kennedy QC to lead

09 February 2010

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland will today launch an in-depth Inquiry into human trafficking in Scotland with a particular focus on commercial sexual exploitation.

The Inquiry, to be led by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, will seek to identify the nature, extent and causes of human trafficking in Scotland; it will assess to what extent Scotland is meeting international and domestic human rights obligations to prevent and prohibit trafficking, prosecute traffickers, and protect its victims.

The Inquiry will gather material on trafficking in Scotland from broad sources and will take evidence from victims of abuse, experts and those with responsibility for combating trafficking.

Whilst human trafficking for sexual exploitation in not unique to Scotland, the community of interest between agencies and organisations working in this area in Scotland creates an opportunity to examine the issues in a way that may not be so easily done elsewhere. The learning from Scotland can then inform practice across the UK.

Launching the Inquiry Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said:

"Human trafficking is recognised as a grave abuse of human rights, involving coercion and deception. It entails ongoing exploitation and its victims suffer untold misery.

This Inquiry is about making a reality of people’s human rights and serving those whose rights have been violated. We will consider whether recommendations on prevention, prohibition, prosecution and protection are necessary - and ensure human rights are at the centre of Scotland's anti-trafficking policy and practice. It is impressive that Scotland is taking the lead on this issue by holding an inquiry."

Morag Alexander, Scotland Commissioner, Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

"I am delighted that Baroness Kennedy will lead this crucial Inquiry. Human trafficking is one of the most extreme abuses of human rights. There is a suspicion that Scotland has a disproportionate share of the human trafficking trade, and some have expressed concern that there have been no convictions for trafficking offences in Scotland compared to over 100 convictions in the rest of the UK.   This Inquiry will examine whether these concerns are well founded.   It will also examine the level of services and the information available to victims.   However, this is not just about statistics, this is about people whose lives are blighted by harm and misery with the continued existence of sex trafficking.

We will investigate whether trafficking for sexual exploitation is treated merely as an asylum and immigration issue or the real human rights issue that it clearly is. We will examine whether there are areas where policy and practice could benefit from a clearer human rights approach.  

The Commission is an accredited national human rights institution and has a duty to oversee compliance with key international obligations. We intend to make sure we do and hope this investigation will deliver real change in not only preventing and prohibiting trafficking but also in protecting its victims."

The Inquiry has been welcomed by the Scottish Government.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:

“I welcome this Inquiry and any contribution it can make to support Scotland’s fight against this horrendous, evil crime. The focus of the Inquiry on human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation is particularly welcome and this area will benefit from the expertise of the Inquiry members.

“The harm involved in trafficking for indoor prostitution is hidden but the Scottish Government are committed to tackling it and we look forward to working to assist the Commission with this important Inquiry.”

The Inquiry will aim to be completed by Summer 2011. Once it has reached a conclusion, a full report of the Commission's findings, and any recommendations, will be published.


For more information please call the Commission press office on 07970541369.

Commission spokespeople will be available for interview.

There is further information on the website: Formal Inquiry opened into Human Trafficking in Scotland

Notes to editors

  1. This Inquiry from the Commission has the following terms of reference:

    1.  To inquire into the extent and nature of human trafficking in relation to Scotland, focusing mainly but not exclusively on trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.
    2. To inquire into the causes of human trafficking relating to Scotland focusing especially on the role of demand for commercial sexual exploitation.
    3. To inquire into policy and practice in Scotland measured against anti-trafficking human rights standards especially in respect of:
      1. the identification and treatment of trafficking victims in the asylum and immigration system
      2. monitoring for, and the investigation and prosecution of, traffickers, especially for trafficking crime; and
      3. the extent and quality of statutory and specialist services and accommodation for victims.
    4. To inquire into domestic and international good practice on the prevention and prohibition of human trafficking, the criminal prosecution of traffickers, and the protection of its victims.
  2. What is a Commission Inquiry and what are its legal powers?
  • The Commission has a legal power, under s.16 of the Equality Act 2006 (the EA), to conduct an inquiry relating to any of its duties under s.8 to s.10 of the EA.
  • An Inquiry is a useful regulatory approach for getting the evidence necessary to gain a clearer understanding of issues of inequality, human rights breaches or abuses, or poor relations between different groups in society. There is no requisite threshold of evidence necessary before conducting an Inquiry.
  • The Commission must publish the terms of reference of an Inquiry in a manner that it thinks will make it likely to bring it to the attention of those persons who it concerns or who are likely to be interested it. Further if any persons are specified in an Inquiry’s terms of reference the Commission must give notice of those terms to those persons.
  • The Commission, in the course of an Inquiry, has the power under paragraphs 9 and 10 of Schedule 2 to the EA, to give notice to named persons requiring them to provide information and / or documents, or to give oral evidence.
  • This notice can include provision on the form and timing of such information, documents and evidence. These notices, however, are subject to certain provisions between paragraphs 10 and 14 of the Schedule 2 to the EA.
  • The Commission must publish a report of its findings from an Inquiry. This report may make recommendations in respect of any matter that arose in the course of an Inquiry, unless this matter was a suspicion that a person may have committed an unlawful act as defined at s.34(1) of the EA.
  • Recommendations in the final report of an Inquiry can be addressed to any class of person. Those to whom an Inquiry recommendation is addressed must have regard to it. Also whilst a court or tribunal may have regard to a finding of the final report of an Inquiry they cannot treat it as conclusive.
  • It should be noted that a human rights matter cannot be an ‘unlawful act’ in the EA. This obviates the possibility of such matters having to be taken out of an s.16 Inquiry, and enables the Commission to consider and report matters relating to human rights in the mandatory final Inquiry report.