The Petition calling on the Metropolitan Police to keep the specialist Trafficking Unit open is presented at City Hall

Labour Party

1,804 signatures later and a lot of hard work by Sarah and Holly from Journalista as well as my office staff, I handed in today the petition calling on the Metropolitan Police to keep their specialist unit dedicated to combatting human trafficking.  My sincere thanks to each and every one of you who signed the petition – 1,804 was an excellent achievement and just shows the strength of feeling about the trafficking of people for profit. 

In line with the usual procedure, I presented the petition this morning at the meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority Board chaired, of course, by Mayor Boris Johnson.  Also in attendance (amongst others) were Labour GLA Members John Biggs, Joanne McCartney and Toby Harris and the Green AM Jenny Jones.  I would like to pay a special tribute to Jenny, pictured, who has been a consistently strong supporter the petition and has worked hard for many years on the trafficking issue.

In presenting the petition, I was allowed to speak for five minutes.  Concentrating on Europe and London, I told the Board how during the football World Cup in Germany there had been a significant increase in prostitution and that most of the prostituted women had been trafficked for the purpose.  It would be appalling if the same were to happen in London for the 2012 Olympics.

My second point was an explanation as to why the conviction rates for trafficking are low, namely that the victims of trafficking, often locked away and unable to go out very far, are frightened and vulnerable and therefore very unlikely to report what is happening to them.  Interestingly Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, denied that the conviction rate was anything to do with the closure of the trafficking unit.

The real issue, as ever, was money.  In 2007 the Home Office provided the Met Police with £1.8 million for the specialist trafficking unit on the understanding that this would go down the following year and that thereafter the Met would be expected to find the money for the trafficking unit out if its own budget.  The Home Office duly gave the Metropolitan Police £700,000 last year.  This year, it would seem, rather than finding the finance, the Met intend to close the unit.  

I was very pleased that the Politics Show London filmed outside City Hall. (They were not allowed into the Board meeting).  There has been considerable media interest in the petition, which again illustrates just how important it is that we do all we can to eliminate the vile crime of trafficking human beings, a modern form of slavery.

Human trafficking petition receives over 1,300 signatures

Labour Party

human handsAs regular readers to my blog will be aware, almost a month ago I launched a campaign to highlight the issue of human trafficking and started a petition intended for the Met Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson to halt his proposal to close the Mets dedicated human trafficking unit.

I’ve received a huge amount of support so far and the petition has almost 1400 signatures to date. The campaign has received support from my MEP colleagues, MPs, local councillors and GLA members. In addition the Public and Commercial Services Union, and Anti Slavery International have also shown their support.

I will present my petition to Scotland Yard this Friday ahead of the decision which will be made by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) between 16 -18 November.

Opponents argue that the unit doesn’t save enough people to warrant it staying open but when you hear the stories of those it does save you understand why it’s so important.

Only last Friday the Met Police reported that a Hungarian human trafficker who regularly raped and beat his girlfriend over a period of two years and then brought her to the UK, forcing her to work as a prostitute, has been jailed for 16 years.

The head of the unit, detective inspector Steve Wilkinson said in a statement following the conviction, that the human trafficking unit ‘continues to work towards freeing exploited victims from their captors and ensuring that we continue to successfully bring the traffickers to prosecution.

‘We hope that this result will encourage any other victims to come forward and speak with police who may have felt that they couldn’t do so before.’

But if the MPA decides to cut the funding of the dedicated unit then where will those victims go? And who should they turn to? If there isn’t a dedicated unit how will a greater number of traffickers be prosecuted?

As I have said throughout this campaign, the unit requires the dedicated and specialist knowledge of trained officers to do this role and successfully catch the perpetrators.

Not only will fewer victims feel they can come forward but even fewer prosecutions are likely to take place as a result.