Kevin Hyland, the UK’s independent anti-slavery commissioner appointed four years ago as part of the Modern Slavery Act says he will will step down by August of this year, citing frustration with government interference. He will move to heading up a children’s charity in Ireland.
Hyland, a former police officer who led the human trafficking unit of the London Metropolitan Police, said the UK Modern Slavery Act has been a “game-changer” but acknowledged criticisms of low conviction rates, limited action from businesses to reform their supply chains, and the lack of support for victims.
British Prime Minister Theresa May praised Hyland for his service, saying “As the first incumbent of the role, you made a significant contribution to shining a spotlight on the scale and nature of modern slavery in the UK and internationally.”
However, the Home Office had only extended Hyland’s term one more year, saying the commissioner was the subject of an inquiry after a non-profit running a modern slavery hotline raised questions about his conduct.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
The Modern Slavery Act introduced life sentences for traffickers, measures to protect people at risk of being enslaved, and made large companies scrutinise their supply chains for forced labour.
Hyland said law enforcement agencies need to ensure tackling slavery is a priority and pursue more prosecutions, while firms who flout the law by failing to disclose what action they have taken to clean up their supply chains should be penalised.
“The legislation is not yet being fully utilised or enforced … but it is still in its infancy,” said Hyland.
But he said Britain has set an example for other nations to follow – Australia is expected to pass a similar law this year – and was instrumental in securing a U.N. target to end slavery as part of 17 global development goals adopted in 2015. “That was a major achievement on the global stage,” he said.
Nick Grono, chief executive of the Freedom Fund, said that the UK Modern Slavery Act gave the country the authority to talk to other nations about how they were tackling the problem.
“But to do that effectively, the next commissioner needs to be able to assert their independence in the role,” he said.
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