The Modern Slavery Act 2015 Offences and Sentencing

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 consolidates and simplifies existing offences into a singular act of modern slavery.  This ensures that perpetrators receive suitable punishment. The act also requires businesses over a certain size to disclose actions made to ensure modern slavery is not underway in their business or supply chains. The purpose of the act is to ensure supply chains are slavery free.

The Crown Prosecution Services Modern Slavery Report 2018 indicates a 27% rise in the number of suspects charged with modern slavery and human trafficking offences compared to the previous year.

The offences under modern slavery are:

  • Slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labour
  • Human trafficking
  • Meaning of exploitation
  • Committing offence with intent to commit offence under section 2

Slavery, Servitude and forced or compulsory labour:

A person commits this offence if;

  • The person holds another in slavery or servitude, and circumstances are that the person knows or ought to know that the other is held in slavery or servitude
  • The person requires another to perform forced or compulsory labour, and circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know the other is being required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Human Trafficking:

A person commits this offence if;

  • If the person arranges or facilitates the travel of another, with a view of being exploited. This is irrelevant whether the person consents, or whether they are an adult or child
  • Any person who arranges, facilitates, by recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving, or transferring or exchanging control over a victim
  • A person who facilitates the travel with a view of the person being exploited, and that person intends to exploit, or knows or ought to know that the person is likely to be exploited.

Meaning of Exploitation:

Exploitation is when services are secured through force, threats, or deception. These services provide perpetrators with benefits; enabling others to acquire benefits of any kind. A person is a victim of modern slavery if one or more of the following apply:

  • Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Removal of organs
  • Securing services  by threats force or deception
  • Securing services etc. from children and vulnerable persons

Committing offence with intent to commit under section 2:

A person commits an offence under this section if the person commits any with the intention of committing an offence, via aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring.


An individual guilty of an offence under section 1 or 2 is subject to a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment, following conviction for either slavery or trafficking offences.  A company is subject to a fine for this offence.

Following summary conviction, a person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine or both.

An individual convicted of committing an offence with the intention to commit under section 4 carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

A confiscation order or compensation order (or both) can also be made, with victim surcharge also applying.

Many laws intertwine with human trafficking; prosecutions are brought under the following:

  • Modern Slavery Act 2015
  • Asylum and Immigration Act 2004, specifically relating to trafficking people for exploitation.
  • The Immigration Act 1971 provides for the offence for assisting or facilitating unlawful immigration.
  • The trafficked individual is considered exploited if rights are breached in the Human Rights Act 1998.

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