Criminal investigations and prosecutions – impact on NRM decision-making
Last updated 14/07/2021
Although an active police investigation (or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) prosecution) may give weight to a claim of trafficking or modern slavery offences, potential victims are not obliged to cooperate with the police at any stage in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) process.
When considering the case you must not penalise a potential victim who is unwilling to cooperate with the police. Where you are considering a case with an ongoing investigation, you should liaise with the police to establish when an appropriate point to make a conclusive grounds decision would be taking into account timescales for decision-making, given any additional information the investigation might provide.
Staff in the Competent Authority must be aware that the Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act 1996 (CPIA) places a requirement on the police and/or investigating body to record, retain and reveal to the prosecutor material obtained in a criminal investigation and which may be relevant to the investigation, and related matters or any person being investigated, or to the surrounding circumstances of the case, unless it is incapable of having any impact on the case.
Where there is any doubt about the relevance of the material that is held by the Competent Authority it should be retained and may be used a part of a criminal investigation. Material is either unused or relevant. For more information about disclosure and retention of material including definitions of unused or relevant material see the disclosure guidance on Horizon.
Child modern slavery cases
It is essential the police are made aware of all child modern slavery cases so you must make sure they have been alerted. In most regions, the Competent Authority will need to alert your local police force’s child protection or public protection unit or the National Human Trafficking Unit in Scotland.
All agencies must ensure that child protection duties and legislation are observed and followed. For more information and guidance, see:
- Safeguarding children who may have been trafficked
- Safeguarding children in Scotland who may have been trafficked
Individuals charged with criminal or immigration offences
The situation a potential victim of modern slavery is found in may implicate them in a criminal or immigration offence.
If staff at the Competent Authority have made a reasonable grounds or conclusive decision that the person is a potential victim or victim of modern slavery the Competent Authority must ensure that the police (National Human Trafficking Unit in Scotland) are notified of the decision as soon as they make it.
Generally the Competent Authority should ask the police to notify prosecutors (the Crown Prosecution Service (or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscals Service in Scotland or Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland) of the decision as soon as they make it.
The CPS has issued detailed guidance on the circumstances prosecutors must consider when defendants charged with criminal offences might be victims of trafficking.
A new statutory defence for victims in the Modern Slavery Act and the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 also strengthens protections against inappropriate prosecution of victims of slavery and trafficking for crimes committed as part of their exploitation.
For more information, see:
Where there is reasonable suspicion a child who has committed a crime may have been trafficked and exploited as a victim of modern slavery, the Competent Authority must take a child welfare response. The immediate priority in such cases is to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. All relevant assessments, including those undertaken by the NRM, must be completed promptly to allow the police and CPS, COPFS or the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland to take an informed decision on whether to progress the charges against the child.
It is vital that contact is made with the police to make sure children who may have been victims of modern slavery can be properly assessed before charges being brought or court proceedings conclude.
Generally the Competent Authority should ask the police to notify prosecutors (the Crown Prosecution Service (or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscals Service in Scotland or Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland) of any updates from the NRM as soon as they make it.
For more information, see: