ECPAT UK's Head of Training, Laura Durán, was recently interviewed by Lynda Gibbs from the Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) to discuss ECPAT UK's work campaigning against child trafficking.

In a series of four videos, Laura discusses the issues surrounding child trafficking, children's rights and using legal frameworks to safeguard child victims.

Click here to watch the videos 

More about child criminal exploitation

Children and adults are recruited and exploited for a wide range of criminal offences. Some of the most common types of criminal activities in which children are exploited include cannabis cultivation, drug dealing and gang activities such as unlawful production, supply, importation or exportation of a controlled drug, pick pocketing, bag snatching and other theft offences, burglary, possession of offensive weapons and false document offences.

ECPAT UK knows that there is a widespread lack of awareness regarding criminal exploitation by police forces, judges, criminal solicitors, social workers and advocates. Often, when coming into contact with public authorities, children may be viewed solely as suspects, which can hinder safeguarding efforts and deprive children of their rights.

Child victims of trafficking have a legal right to not be prosecuted for crimes that are a direct consequence of their exploitation, yet many practitioners are unaware of this and children may not be informed of this by their lawyers.

Through our work with young people, we know that early victim identification is key to ensuring children are not treated as perpetrators and instead can access support and protection as child victims of trafficking. Sadly, many of those who have been criminalised and prosecuted remain in a cycle of exploitation and will go on to be re-trafficked and re-criminalised several times.

Children exploited through criminality will often remain in this situation for some time through various physical and psychological means of control. Debt bondage is common in the profile of children in criminal exploitation, whereby children find themselves indebted to older gang members for money, drugs or protection. In cases of children from overseas, many young people end up in debt to pay for their travel to the UK and are exploited to repay it.

Other forms of control include grooming, violence or threats of violence, sexual violence, confiscating identity documents and image-based coercion and extortion. Children in trafficking situations are known to given inconsistent or conflicting accounts when interviewed by professionals. However, this can be an indicator of trafficking whereby children are instructed to give false stories or are fearful of authorities. The effect of trauma can also impact on a child’s ability to recall events or memories.  

Ensuring professionals in the criminal justice system understand child criminal exploitation, the barriers to disclosure and the legal framework in place to protect children is essential to identify and safeguard child victims and ensure they are protected from being re-trafficked.  

Laura Durán is Head of Training at ECPAT UK (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking)

To commission ECPAT UK to deliver a specialist training course on trafficking, including on forced criminality and the non-prosecution of victims of trafficking, please click here.