Section 2: Trafficking and Exploitation in Scotland Background and Evidence
The Act creates a new legislative context that will simplify how police and prosecutors can deal with these crimes. Until now, police and prosecutors have had to rely on a number of different legislative instruments to charge suspected perpetrators.
The offence of human trafficking is defined in Section 1 of the Act as the recruitment, transportation or transfer, harbouring or receiving or exchange or transfer of control of another person for the purposes of exploiting them. The arrangement and facilitation of these actions also constitutes the offence. This definition does not require coercive means such as threats or intimidation to be present and it is irrelevant if the victim 'consented' to any part of the action.
The offence of 'Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour' is defined in section 4, covering the exploitation of persons who have not been trafficked.
Both offences now carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The Act also takes forward improved protection for victims, through the Lord Advocate's instructions on the presumption against the prosecution of victims in certain circumstances and by placing a duty on Scottish Ministers to provide support and assistance for victims. Further, the Act makes provision for orders for which the police can apply, to disrupt activity related to trafficking and exploitation.
National Referral Mechanism ( NRM)
This is a UK wide framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive the appropriate support  .
The National Crime Agency ( NCA) publishes annual statistics on those who have been referred to the NRM. Adults need to give their consent to entering the NRM while children do not and, for a variety of reasons, a number of adults refuse to do so. Thus, the NRM statistics will only ever provide a partial picture in respect of adults. Adults may withhold consent for a variety of reasons including a fear of authority or a desire not to acknowledge that they are victims. In Scotland, adult victims of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour are not currently recorded through the NRM processes. This issue will be considered further as implementation of the Act is taken forward.
There were 145 potential victims of trafficking identified in this way in Scotland in 2015. 71 were females (49%) and 74 males (51%), 103 (71%) were adults and 42 (29%) were children. 65% of all victims identified in Scotland were women or children. This is a 31% increase on 2014 referrals.
The referrals were for different kinds of exploitation:
The Action Plan will require further research to be commissioned, to ascertain the extent of human trafficking and exploitation.