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Britain to jail slavery gangmasters for life

Source: Tue, 17 Dec 2013 11:32 AM
Author: William James
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Police stand guard at a property in Lambeth, south London November 23, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
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LONDON, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Judges in Britain will be given the power to jail modern-day slave drivers for life, the government said on Monday, as it published a new anti-slavery law weeks after the case of three women enslaved for more than 30 years made global headlines.

Slavery, outlawed in Britain more than 200 years ago, has been pushed up the British political agenda after police rescued the trio from a London house in what police described as the country's worst ever domestic servitude case. 

"Modern slavery is a brutal crime which knows no boundaries and does not discriminate on gender, age, creed, culture or race," Theresa May, Britain's interior minister, said in a written statement to parliament.

"This is simply unacceptable in modern day Britain. We will not, and cannot let this continue."

Under existing legislation, slavery gangmasters can be jailed for a maximum of 14 years. Once the new law is passed, and it enjoys cross-party support so its passage should be easy, the upper limit will be increased to life imprisonment.

The legislation would also create a post for an anti-slavery commissioner to liaise between law-enforcement bodies who would try to trigger investigations and generate more prosecutions.

Modern slavery can include human trafficking, forced labour and marriage, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.

Separately, evidence in a government-commissioned report released on Monday estimated that up to 10,000 people are being forced to work as slaves in Britain. May said the true number was hard to estimate, and the government used a much lower figure of 2,255 in its official assessment of the legislation.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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