UK anti-slavery commissioner: My job should not exist

Kevin Hyland. Credit: PA Wire

The UK's first anti-slavery commissioner has told ITV News he wants to use his new position to uncover the real number of people being kept as slaves across the country.

Kevin Hyland, who is a former head of the Met's human trafficking unit, was appointed by the Home Office last week through the Modern Slavery Bill, which is expected to become law in 2015.

Hyland says he is determined to speak for victims in his new role. In an interview with ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham, he said:

I have a great challenge ahead of me and it is something that I really want to make a difference.

Kevin Hyland

He said it was widely accepted that the government figures on the number of people being kept as slaves - currently 2,700 per year - is only an fractional estimate.

The National Crime Agency estimates:

  • Last year 2,744 people were victims of the trafficking in the UK

  • 602 of these victims being held were children

  • 155 people were convicted of trafficking offences

Hyland said he was determined that the police would pursue a "victim centred approach" and do what they are paid to do: pursue those who profit from the trafficking of people.

One thing I am going to be very clear about is that I am going to be the voice of the victims and I am going to make sure the victims and survivors are supported by all those agencies.

Kevin Hyland

He accepted the conviction rate for slavery and trafficking offences in the UK is currently "far too low", and said he would ensure authorities "stepped up" both in the UK and working with partners abroad to see trafficking as the most serious organised crime.

We see cases where victims end up being imprisoned, when they are victims. That cannot happen, this must not happen. There is a complete misunderstanding of this criminality. This morning I met a victim of trafficking who was arrested for immigration offences - this cannot happen anymore.

Kevin Hyland

Hyland said he wanted every law enforcement agency across the UK to formulate a response to this issue, and threatened to name and shame those forces that does not achieve them.

He appealed to anyone who knows anyone that could be affected by slavery to go to the police, and said the agencies already working with victims need to demand more from their police forces.

It is not a privilege to have this role, because how can it be a privilege to have a role that shouldn't exist?

Kevin Hyland

But he said he is privileged to be in a position that will enable him to make changes to how law enforcement and other work to put those responsible for modern slavery, behind bars, where they belong.

He said it was time for the public - as well as the police - to accept the reality that an unknown number of thousands of people were living, working and dying as slaves in every part of the UK.