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Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner resigns citing lack of independence
Credit: Office of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner

Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner resigns citing lack of independence

The government’s anti-slavery czar, Kevin Hyland OBE, has resigned and says that his successor must be able to operate independently of government.

In a resignation statement, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner said that

As the inaugural incumbent in a unique role there have predictably been some learning points for all around the precise nature of the independence set by the founding legislation, but I leave the role confident that my successor can only benefit from this learning.

An interview published today by the Thomson Reuters Foundation also notes that:

Hyland said he had been frustrated by the government interfering with a role intended to be separate from the state, although he declined to elaborate, and urged autonomy for his successor.

Trafficking minister Victoria Atkins appeared to acknowledge this in her response to his resignation, saying that “the Home Office is working with the Commissioner in his final months to see how this important role can be further strengthened”.

Mr Hyland will leave office by August to head up an unidentified children’s charity in Ireland. His statement pays tribute to Theresa May for her commitment to tackling slavery and lists a number of achievements in the role, including:

  • Over a 100 per cent increase in the identification of potential victims referred for support
  • Leading on radically improved support for survivors of modern slavery
  • Recorded crimes up by over 500 per cent
  • Unprecedented uplift in policing operations
  • Embedding sustainable training for judiciary in England & Wales, now extended to Northern Ireland and Scotland

A former police officer, Mr Hyland had been the head of the human trafficking unit at the Metropolitan Police. He was the first to serve as Anti-Slavery Commissioner, a role created by the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The Commissioner’s remit is to “encourage good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of slavery and human trafficking offences, as well as in the identification of victims”.

Responding to Mr Hyland’s resignation, the Prime Minister wrote that “as the first incumbent of the role, you made a significant contribution to shining a spotlight on the scale and nature of modern slavery in the UK and internationally, and have helped drive progress in the UK response to modern slavery”. The Archbishop of Canterbury praised his “outstanding leadership”.

The Home Office said that it will begin recruiting for a successor shortly.

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