Long welcomes first annual report of Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner

Date published: 17 September 2020

Justice Minister Naomi Long has welcomed the publication of the first annual report of Dame Sara Thornton, who took on the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner in May last year.

Justice Minister Naomi Long

Naomi Long said: “I had the opportunity to meet with Dame Sara shortly after I took up the position of Justice Minister and I was very impressed by the commitment she has shown to the role, including ensuring that the work in Northern Ireland to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking is recognised for its contribution to the wider UK effort.”

“I welcome the fact that Dame Sara has acknowledged in her report the good practice she observed in Northern Ireland.  There is extensive work being taken forward here by statutory and non-statutory partners to raise awareness of modern slavery offences, to support those affected and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

Dame Sara has highlighted a number of areas for improvement, primarily applicable in England and Wales, but which we will obviously consider as we develop our future approach to tackling modern slavery in Northern Ireland.  In her report she has also highlighted the fact that the legislation in Northern Ireland does not, unlike the rest of the UK, provide for Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders.  While I am aware of some concerns expressed during the consultation on the Modern Slavery legislation in relation to these orders, as evidence emerges of their use in England, Wales and Scotland, I want to consider this again and have asked officials to begin scoping work in this regard.

While the total number of referrals to the National Referral Mechanism made by Northern Ireland represents a small proportion of the overall total across the UK, we nevertheless saw an increase from 57 to 111 referrals in the last year, and I look forward to continuing to work with Dame Sara to ensure that our collective response to human trafficking and slavery, in all its forms, continues to be as robust as possible.”

Notes to editors: 

1.  Dame Sara Thornton DBE QPM is the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. Part 4 of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 created the role of the Commissioner.  Section 42 of the Act requires that, after the end of each financial year, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (IASC) submits to the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers and the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland an annual report on the exercise of her functions during the year.  S42 also requires that the Department of Justice must lay the annual report before the Northern Ireland Assembly.

2.  This is Dame Sara’s first annual report since she took up the position of IASC in May 2019.  The position was previously held by Kevin Hyland.

3.  The IASC has a UK-wide remit to encourage good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of modern slavery offences. The Commissioner works directly with statutory agencies, who have a duty to co-operate with the Commissioner as set out in the Modern Slavery Act.

4.  Home Office statistics for NRM referrals 1 April 2020 – 30 June 2020 were released on 17 September and can be found at the following website:


5.  Media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office via email at press.office@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.uk

6.  The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.

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