New legislation on human trafficking has come into force in Scotland which will ensure those convicted of the offence face the “toughest possible penalties”, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has said.
The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 includes the possibility of a life sentence for those convicted of human trafficking, which has been made a specific offence, or the new offence of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.
Police and the courts also get new powers to confiscate and seize property used for human trafficking.
The legislation, which was passed by MSPs in October 2015, toughens the existing criminal law and also enhances the support available for victims.
Mr Matheson said: “The measures coming into force today sends the strongest possible message that those who seek to profit from human suffering will not be tolerated in Scotland.
“The trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable adults and children is an appalling crime that brings misery and potential long-term consequences for its victims.
“The new offence of trafficking will ensure perpetrators will face the toughest possible penalties while also providing greater protections for their victims.”
He continued: “We are also clarifying and strengthening the criminal law around trafficking and exploitation, and giving police and prosecutors further tools to track down and prosecute criminals.
“However, legislation alone will not stop trafficking, which is why we are developing a human trafficking and exploitation strategy to build on the work already being undertaken to increase public awareness and help businesses and staff spot the signs of potential trafficking and exploitation.”