Victims’ Voices: New project launches to support women survivors of modern slavery to access justice

A ground-breaking project will train staff to gather evidence admissible in court to support criminal prosecutions against perpetrators of modern slavery. The “Victims’ Voices” project, the first of its kind in the country, will enable survivors of modern slavery to seek justice for their exploitation and to challenge conclusive grounds decisions recognising them as victims of modern slavery.

The Medaille Trust will begin training selected caseworkers with significant experience working in the field to undertake interviews with survivors of modern slavery that meet “achieving best evidence” (ABE) standards. This means the evidence gathered can be used in criminal proceedings on behalf of police and law enforcement. The project aims to empower more women to seek justice through providing opportunities to tell their story in a comfortable environment, at their own time and pace. Experiences show that some survivors find it difficult to engage in giving evidential accounts. Distrust of authority, stigma regarding forms of exploitation, in particular sex work, and fear of repercussions for family and friends back home, ensure than prosecutions remain very low. In 2019, in the UK, of the 10,627 potential victims referred to the NRM, only 322 prosecutions were undertaken by the Crown Prosecution Service.

By using experienced case workers, who are not police officers or authority figures, in familiar surroundings, survivors who would not otherwise engage in giving an evidential account or supporting criminal prosecutions will be able to seek justice.  This new approach will help to address the current imbalance in the criminal justice system by bringing more cases and perpetrators to justice.

Director of Police and Justice Partnerships for the Medaille Trust Steve Hay said: “Often women survivors are distrusting of police and legal processes and can feel disempowered to take action against their traffickers.  This can make it difficult for authorities to build cases against those involved in exploitation and trafficking. We hope that through this project, we can empower more women to engage in the criminal justice process. By providing courts with the best evidence available we hope to help increase the number of prosecutions and bring about justice for the victims of this horrendous crime.” 

“Victims’ Voices” is a cornerstone of the newly launched “Moving on Project”, which provides community based support to female survivor of modern slavery. As well as one-to-one support to move on positively with their lives, the project also empowers victims to pursue judicial outcomes against their perpetrators, supporting them through the legal process. The Moving on Project is funded by the Department Culture, Media and Sport through the Tampon Tax Fund.

Moving on Project manager Simone Lord said: “Modern slavery has a devastating impact on women’s lives.  Many are left with disabling mental health problems, such as depression anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Getting women to the point of being able to provide an accurate account of their exploitation takes a lot of time, trust and patience.  We hope that by training our team, we can support more women to tell their story.”

The training begins on Monday 10th May, and the project will officially begin in July 2021.