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Sentencing for human trafficking

What is the sentence for human trafficking in 2024?

Human Trafficking is a complex area of law, usually with an international dimension. Those found guilty of human trafficking can be given a hefty fine and a substantial prison sentence.

human trafficking

Despite there being harsh penalties, human trafficking remains to be an attractive activity for traffickers due to the significant financial returns that can be made. In the UK, trafficking often leads to forced labour, sexual slavery and domestic servitude.

Investigations into human trafficking can be very stressful and upsetting. As soon as you hear that you’re being accused of this crime, it’s essential that you seek sound legal counsel as quickly as possible.

Taking early action can make all the difference with regards to the outcome of your case. A sharp lawyer with experience in this field of law may even be able to get your case dismissed before it progresses to the court stage.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of human trafficking, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines below.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

Read more information about the offence of Human trafficking

More about Human Trafficking

Although London is the heart of human trafficking in the UK, there is also many migrants who have been trafficked into Scotland. The migrants will often be taken there by a member of the human trafficking organisation. There are now 77 different nationalities in Glasgow, many of them thought to have arrived through a human trafficking route.

If you or somebody close to you has been charged or arrested in connection to human trafficking, you are likely to be feeling stressed, anxious, confused and very worried about what’s going to happen.

In some cases, there may even have been a confusion with regards to what happened and who is involved. It’s possible that you weren’t even involved in the situation and should not have been suspected of playing a role.

We have put together some of the typical questions that our human trafficking clients have with answers to provide you with guidance and support. We aim to make this as easy and stress-free for you as possible.

What type of actions are considered Human Trafficking?

Despite the UK taking action against human trafficking offenders, the UK continues to be an attractive country. Migrant workers are often forced into working in the construction, agriculture, food processing, domestic servitude and food service industries.

Amongst others, source countries include Russia, Thailand, China, Ghana, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and Albania.

Here are some other examples of actions that are considered to be human trafficking.

Prostitution – this involves either prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation. The young ladies and girls can be lured to countries by the promise of wealth and a good life.

Slavery or similar practices – in some cases, the slaves may be moved from place to place or drugged as a means of controlling them. In others, the slaves are told to call their family to send more money to them to free them; this money is then confiscated by criminals.

Forced labour, labour exploitation, or forced services – this may be tied to debt and typically involves work in the construction, service, agriculture or entertainment services.

Servitude – for example, when people are made to provide domestic work either through force or coercion.

Human trafficking is the third biggest crime in the world, with thousands of people involved every year. You may be unwittingly involved in it, but our human trafficking solicitors can help with a strong defence. They may even be able to get your case dismissed before it reaches the court stage.

Businesses who supply any goods or services in the UK are now required to issue a statement on their website about human trafficking. The requirement is based on the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Businesses are expected to make checks to ensure that their employees can work legally in the UK.

What is the average sentence for human trafficking offences?

The sentence that you are given will depend upon what you are charged with. In addition to facilitating illegal immigration, there is also human trafficking, which involves the movement, payment, control and exploitation of the person amongst others.

The maximum prison sentence for human trafficking is 14 years and you may be asked to pay a large fine.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the human trafficking offence for sentencing purposes? 

The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the human trafficking sentence?

When sentencing for human trafficking, your case will be investigated thoroughly by the police and other regulatory agents.

It will be looked at for whether you have taken part in a group activity or to see if you were forced into it. If you’ve used a false identity, or you have used the identity of others to access more funds, this will be considered to decide your sentence.

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Any previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for human trafficking with a guilty plea?

In recent years, a number of changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

  • ‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.
  • If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.
  • After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten percent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.
  • If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of human trafficking offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a human trafficking offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of human trafficking offences include:

  • Compensation for loss
  • Restraint orders
  • Reparation orders
  • Financial reporting order
  • Disqualification from directing a company
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of human trafficking, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

We will work alongside you to understand the factual circumstances surrounding the allegations. We will move quickly to secure any useful defence evidence which materialises from your explanation of events. Applying a comprehensive eye, our Criminal Defence Solicitors will analyse the prosecution evidence very carefully.

We will not only identify the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case, but we will also be looking for illegally obtained evidence, we will also be contesting the admissibility of evidence and the reliability of witnesses (who may have a personal gain and have received promises of visas by the British authorities).

Mobile phone downloads, computer evidence and other material seized during searches will be relied upon by the prosecution. Our Criminal Defence Solicitors have substantial experience of analysing telephone and observation evidence which often is the mainstay of the trial. There may also be evidence of the client’s and other parties’ financial records which require detailed analysis to weigh up its evidential impact.

We will instruct forensic analysts, mobile phone experts, computer interrogators and any other experts who can provide positive testimony in your case. Not only this, we will not settle for anyone other than the best Barristers or QC’s who will work with us to defend you. We believe that several legal minds working together on a case are better than then one and your team will collaborate to devise the best strategy and optimise your chances of success.

Most importantly, our Criminal Defence Solicitors fight robustly to achieve all the disclosure the client is entitled to under the law and we are never afraid of bringing proceedings in Court for incomplete disclosure. Prosecutors sometimes don’t sharethe information which can help the defence to win the case or a vital argument, but we have uncovered hidden evidence on countless occasions, which has then led to the success of the case.

Whether the alleged ‘exploitation’ is sexual, involves Slavery or Forced Labour; our Criminal Defence Solicitors have the skills to explore transcultural and transnational issues to provide the real perspective of the case. We instruct well-regarded interpreters and translators in assisting our understanding of the cases and clients.

Time is often of the essence in Human Trafficking cases, and we strongly encourage you to seek early advice and assistance.  Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our Criminal Defence Solicitors to arrange a meeting, whether face to face, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

What should you do if you get arrested for human trafficking?

The police are trained to gain convictions. If you are arrested by the police or asked to attend the police station for a ‘chat’ about your involvement in human trafficking, it’s imperative that you take a legal professional with you.

The skills of the police when it comes to interviewing techniques are exceptional. They will often put a person into a position where they incriminate themselves.

Taking a legal professional with you will provide you with a number of benefits. For example, the police often withhold evidence as part of their strategy in getting you to incriminate yourself. If you take a competent human trafficking lawyer with you, they will ask what other evidence the police have and will be shown it.

Other advantages that you’ll gain from taking a legal professional to the police station with you include being guided in what to say and what not to say. The lawyer can also ask to see all evidence so that he or she can begin to create a strong defence strategy.

In summary, we recommend that you do not attend any police interview or take part in any communication with the police without being accompanied by a competent human trafficking lawyer. To do so may put you in deeper trouble that even a lawyer may find it hard to extricate you from.

We have extensive experience and expertise in human trafficking cases and have defended a significant number of people who have been accused. Many of our clients did not have to attend the court stage as our lawyers were able to get them dismissed before the case reached that stage.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.

Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our human trafficking lawyer solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

Get in touch with us now for human trafficking legal help.


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