HC Deb 03 November 2003 vol 412 cc443-4W
Mr. Reed

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to increase penalties for those engaged in the trafficking of(a) women and (b) children for the illegal sex industry in England and Wales. [134353]

Beverley Hughes

The Government takes very seriously the issue of trafficking people for sexual exploitation. At present, the Nationality, Asylum and Immigration Act 2002 contains an offence of trafficking for prostitution, which makes it an offence, punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment, to traffic someone (whether an adult or a child) into or out of the United Kingdom for the purposes of exploiting them in prostitution.

The Sexual Offences Bill, introduced into the House of Lords on 28 January 2003 proposes new comprehensive offences of trafficking for sexual exploitation to replace the stop-gap offence introduced by the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. These new offences tackle the movement of people into, within and out of the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and will also carry maximum penalties of 14 years imprisonment. The offence relating to trafficking within the UK applies equally to UK nationals trafficked from place to place in the UK, and to foreign nationals brought here and then moved around from place to place within the UK. This is the first time that the trafficking of UK nationals within the UK has been tackled in legislation.

Internationally, we are committed to addressing the issue of trafficking by our involvement with the EU Framework Decision on combating the trafficking of human beings, and the UN protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking.

We believe 14 years is the appropriate maximum penalty for trafficking an adult or child. This is the highest determinate penalty available to the courts and we consider that it provides a proportionate response to the range of criminal behaviour involved in trafficking. Where the trafficked person is also subjected to a sexual or violent offence, this can be charged in its own right and the offender will then additionally be liable for the penalties that attach to those offences.

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