Sir Bernard will use the experience and contacts from more than 30 years of front-line policing to agitate for concrete changes that will make it harder for human traffickers and gang masters to operate in the UK.
He will work with journalists, campaigners and business and political leaders, as well as our partners at the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, to deliver change in five areas: closing businesses that use slave labour, giving survivors a second chance, encouraging readers to report cases, helping those trapped to come forward and campaigning for new laws.
“This investigation is vital,” said Sir Bernard, 59, who led the Met from 2011 to last February. “Government and societies must become more aware of this issue.”
He revealed that a trip to the Vatican had made him focus on the evil of modern slavery. Kevin Hyland, now the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, was then in charge of the police’s anti-slavery department. He had built links with the Catholic church to enable both to help each other fight the problem.
Sir Bernard said: “We heard from two individuals. One was a woman who’d been trafficked into the UK, had her passport taken away and been forced to work as a prostitute. And then a man who’d been in forced labour and was sleeping on a floor, and didn’t even realise it was terrible. The more you hear of the individual stories, the more you realise what a huge problem this is, and it’s happening right under our noses.”
The Independent’s anti-slavery investigation launched two weeks ago and has won the backing of the Prime Minister, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and charity and business leaders.
Sir Bernard wants to make businesses more accountable if they use slave labour and support the victims. He said: “It’s difficult to know whether the problem is getting better or worse, because nobody has precise figures.”
Sir Bernard believes that law enforcement has an important role to play in helping victims come forward. “The victims may not dare approach the authorities, so we have to help them realise that they won’t be judged harshly. It’s the traffickers, who are making money through this terrible exploitation, who need to be prosecuted.”
The Modern Slavery Act came into force during Sir Bernard’s time as Met Commissioner. He added: “We…