HC Deb 04 November 2003 vol 412 cc576-7W
Mr. Reed

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent assessment he has made of the number of(a) women and (b) children being trafficked into (i) the UK and (ii) Leicestershire through the illegal sex industry in the last 24 months. [134354]

Caroline Flint

The nature of trafficking means that it is a hidden crime. The only available estimates of the levels of trafficking are based on a Home Office research study 'Stopping Traffic' (Police Research Series 125, published in 2000), which indicated that there was intelligence to suggest that some women and children are trafficked into the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation. This was estimated at between 140 and 1,400 per year but it was impossible to make a more accurate assessment of numbers. The report concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that this was on a large scale compared with other European countries.

However, the very nature of the crime demands that it is treated very seriously, which is why the Government have introduced criminal sanctions covering traffickers and has tasked the Reflex group with coordinating the response to this problem. Leicestershire Constabulary are engaged with Reflex in building up intelligence and multi-agency working to tackle trafficking at a regional and national level. Reflex is sponsoring a major Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) conference on 13 November on this issue.

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act received Royal Assent in November last year, and sections 145 and 146 of it came into force on 10 February 2003. Data on numbers of prosecutions under these sections will be collected in the usual way and published in Home Office Criminal Statistics. Given that the powers came into effect recently there is not any information yet held centrally about numbers of prosecutions.