Caroline Haughey prosecuted on the first modern slavery case. SM celebrates some of the many – and increasing – heroes of modern slavery
It was, says criminal barrister Caroline Haughey, something of a fluke that she ended up prosecuting on the first modern slavery case in Britain, in April 2011. Her experience of working with vulnerable witnesses meant the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) approached her about the case, which involved the trafficking of an African woman. “Once I’d done the first one, it evolved from there,” she says. “I feel passionately about the area. You get sucked in.”
Since then, Haughey has played a major role in drafting anti-slavery legislation in the UK, as well as prosecuting on many cases. She helped develop the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and was asked by Theresa May to lead an independent review into the effectiveness of the act a year on.
Her main areas of interest were making modern slavery and human trafficking a primary target of the government; making the law easier to understand, and making sentences more commensurate with the crime. “The maximum sentence [for human trafficking] was 14 years,” she says. “You would get more time if you smuggled two kilos of cocaine than 1,000 human beings. I felt that was morally wrong.” She emphasises she was by no means alone in wanting those measures: “I was one person with good vocal chords.”