There are four of us – NCA and seconded police officers – covering all of the UK. We have a dual role. One aspect is advising law enforcement (including NCA colleagues) on human trafficking investigations; the other is supporting victims.
When a potential victim of human trafficking is identified we are available 24 hours a day to support whichever agency is dealing with the case.
Our job is to give advice on how a human trafficking case might play out, set out investigative options, explain the risks and our duty of care towards the victims, including best practice for interviewing them and the National Referral Mechanism. We work in partnership with law enforcement to devise the best tactics, not only to protect the victims but also to deal with the criminality.
While there is a growing awareness of trafficking and modern slavery, many officers haven’t dealt with investigations like this before; that’s where we add value. Human trafficking, while organised, isn’t always like other crimes. It can involve different cultures and methods, and the biggest issue is supporting the victims.
Victim care is paramount but it is also essential that we investigate the criminals – the financial gain from human trafficking can be huge. Greater awareness and partnership working, here and internationally, are improving intelligence flows. This is crucial; it’s not always easy to get intelligence from the victims as they’re often too afraid to speak out.
We need to gain the victims’ trust to have any chance of obtaining evidence from them. We start by letting them know their rights and the support they are entitled to. We at the Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) have developed the use of multi agency reception centres which we can facilitate on behalf of partners and the victims. Often victims live and work in poor conditions with little clothing or food and no pay. We take them to safety to meet their immediate needs and provide medical and psychological support while maximising every opportunity to gather evidence against the offenders.
The tactical adviser is a niche role. You need an investigative background, be willing to learn and know when to do your research. When you’re on the ground you always come across new things.
Good communication and negotiating skills are crucial. There can be a lot more to a case than meets the eye. Officers with little experience of investigating human trafficking need clear information and guidance to understand the risks. Good communication and trust are essential if investigations are to succeed.
Find out more about the Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU).