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18 October 2015, 07:10
Police and prosecutors are marking anti-slavery day by delivering a "crucial'' message that there is no place for human trafficking in Scotland.
Last year Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC hosted a summit at the Scottish Parliament with prosecution chiefs from across the UK.
Since then work has been ongoing as agencies meet to share best practice to combat human trafficking.
Anti-slavery day is held on October 18 every year to raise awareness of modern slavery.
It comes just weeks after new laws to tackle human trafficking and better protect its victims were passed by MSPs.
The legislation establishes a single offence of human trafficking and increases the maximum penalty for offenders to life imprisonment.
Under the proposals, prosecutors will be given guidance from the Lord Advocate setting out a presumption against prosecution in cases where trafficked people have been forced into committing crime.
The legislation also commits Scottish ministers to publishing and updating a human trafficking strategy.
Kath Harper, the Crown Office's national lead prosecutor for human trafficking, said: "It is crucial that those involved in the abhorrent trade in human beings understand that Scotland is a country that is hostile to this kind of exploitation and that the Crown, working closely with Police Scotland and other law enforcement partners and stakeholders, will ensure that victims of this crime are protected.
"The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which is awaiting royal assent, will provide a further tool in this effort.''
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham also spoke out.
"We are clear there is no place for human trafficking and exploitation in Scotland,'' Mr Matheson said.
"We will ensure that victims of human trafficking will be provided with the support and assistance they need, and we have committed to developing a strategy that will set out further concrete ways we can identify and protect victims of this harmful crime.''
Mr Graham added: "Anti-slavery day is a reminder to all of us that slavery still exists, that people are trafficked and exploited in Scotland, in the UK and across the world for the sole purpose of making money for criminal gangs and individuals.
"Trafficking has no place in our communities and it is unacceptable that people continue to be exploited in this way.''