What is Modern Slavery?

Modern Slavery can take many forms, including the coercion and/or trafficking of people for forced labour, sex, criminality, marriage and servitude.  

Although slavery is illegal in every country in the modern world, it still exists today and can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender and ethnicity.

The following definitions are encompassed within the term 'modern slavery' for the purposes of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

These are:
'Slavery' is where ownership is exercised over a person
'Servitude' involves the obligation to provide services imposed by coercion
'Forced or compulsory labour' involves work or service extracted from any person under the menace of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself voluntarily
'Human trafficking' concerns arranging or facilitating the travel of another with a view to exploiting them.

More information can be found on the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership website www.stopexploitationherts.org.uk.

Facts and Figures

Modern slavery is a growing problem globally and the scale of modern slavery in the UK is significant.

Almost 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys.*

In the UK in 2016, 3,804 people were identified as potential victims of modern slavery. This is a 17% increase on 2015 figures. In 2017 this figure had increased to 5,142 and then to 6,993. A consistenent year on year increase of around £5 per cent.

Here in Hertfordshire, 119 potential victims have been identified as victims since 2009. However not all of them had offences committed against them within the county.*

This number has dramatically increased in recent years with 47 identified in 2017, compared to 10 in 2015 and 26 in 2016.

The majority of victims were women (58), followed by men (32), then boys (17) and girls (12).

There have been three convictions for human trafficking and modern slavery offences in the county.

Commissioned by Hertfordshire County Council and the OPCC, the Modern Slavery Strategic Needs Assessment (December 2018) provides the most-up-to date information on what modern slavery looks like in Hertfordshire.

*Figures taken from www.unseenuk.org/modern-slavery/facts-and-figures
*Figures were last updated by Hertfordshire Constabulary in October 2017

Hertfordshire's Response

A multi-agency anti-slavery partnership in Hertfordshire, made up of more than sixty agencies and charities, has been set up to tackle modern slavery in the county. Co-ordinated by Shiva Foundation -   a corporate foundation that aims to tackle and prevent modern slavery in the UK - the group includes senior level representatives from the County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner's Office and the Police, as well as representatives from the District/Borough Councils, NHS Trusts, local non-statutory agencies and organisations, and national agencies. In December 2018, the Partnership was scrutinised by Hertfordshire County Council as part of a Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Topic Group. The full report can be found here.

More information on the Partnership can be found here

Operation Tropic (Hertfordshire Constabulary)

Operation Tropic was launched by Hertfordshire Constabulary as a dedicated police unit to coordinate the response to modern slavery in Hertfordshire in May 2017.

Detective Superintendent Dave Wheatley the Force’s strategic lead for tackling slavery and trafficking, explains: “[Operation Tropic] coordinates the policing response to trafficking and slavery, and manages the flow of intelligence with national and international law enforcement agencies.

“The unit provides support and training to investigating officers in the force and partner agencies in the county, meaning that crimes are more likely to be spotted and intelligence shared.

“The new partnership has brought multi-agency working to a new level in Hertfordshire, which has been very evident in recent anti-slavery operations. Partnership services such as reception centres for victims are now used for all significant policing operations.”

For more on Operation Tropic, look at this article.

Spot the Signs

Below are some of the signs that might indicate modern slavery. This is not an exhaustive list. Anyone with concerns about exploitation or modern slavery, should call the police via 101 (ask for the modern slavery unit) or the national 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. In an emergency call 999. Beacon supports victims locally and has a hotline: 03000 11 55 55, which is open from Monday to Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 9am-5pm.
Physical Appearance
  • Signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, anxious/ agitated or appear withdrawn and neglected. They may have untreated injuries
  • Rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control, influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work
  • Relationships which don’t seem right – for example a young teenager appearing to be the boyfriend/ girlfriend of a much older adult.
Poor living conditions
  • Be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and / or living and working at the same address
  • Restricted freedom of movement
  • Have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work
  • Have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, e.g. passport
Unusual travel times
  • Be dropped off / collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night
  • Unusual travel arrangements- children being dropped off/ picked up in private cars/ taxis at unusual times and in places where they it isn’t clear why they’d be there
Reluctant to seek help
  • Avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.

* More information to support you to Spot the signs


Report Modern Slavery

If you believe a person is a victim of modern slavery and is in immediate danger, you should call 999 straight away.

To report concerns, get advice, or seek help, call the confidential 24/7 UK Modern Slavery Helpline 0800 012 1700 or visit the website

You can also report suspicions of modern slavery by calling 101 (ask for the modern slavery unit).

Documents and Resources

The OPCC has developed a modern slavery strategy on behalf of the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership. This acts a foundation for partnership activity for 2018-2021.

For further information please contact kat@shivafoundation.org.uk.

 Herts Modern Slavery Partnership Strategy