By Matty Sutton
THE justice system in Scotland is too slow to deal with the growing problem of child trafficking, experts warned today (Tue).
At least 80 children have been trafficked into Scotland to face sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude or to beg in the streets for gangs, according to an official estimate.
But prosecuting the criminals responsible for the trade needs reform of the law and systems, a conference on child trafficking was told.
Phil Taylor, regional director of the UK Border Agency, said:
“There is an inability of the collective to bring these cases to trial.
“Foreign nationals are not going to hang about for three years to give evidence against traffickers.”
Mr Taylor said a speedier system was needed and that the paper trail with trafficking cases was a stumbling block in the way of speedy justice.
Colin Carswell, a police chief inspector, told the conference in Edinburgh, that he was involved in an operation to catch traffickers from Romania.
He said that in 2007 they managed to charge 26 gangsters but only four of them for trafficking.
“The main problem being getting terrified young children to act as witnesses in a culture of threats and fear,’ he said.
“The gangsters threaten to hurt them and their families or tie them into debt bonds to keep them quiet. “
Christine Beddoe, director of child protection group ECPAT, criticised the current system for its inability to deal effectively with trafficking.
She said: “Child trafficking is not new and it is not new in Scotland. What is changing is how crime networks are finding new ways to exploit children.”
Detective Superintendent Stephen Whitelaw, of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, said there was a gap between official statistics about trafficking and the real world experiences on the ground which show a higher level of abuse in Scotland.
He said as many as 28% asylum-seeking children could be trafficked.
“Knowledge about trafficking is limited and heavily weighted on sexual exploitation – there is not much known about domestic servitude or labour exploitation,’ he said.
“We do know there is a demand for these services inScotland.”
The conference, led by Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, brought together experts from across the UK to discuss the commissioner’s recent report into child trafficking in Scotland. The report stated that at least 80 children had been trafficked into Scotland.