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Slavery

How come an anti-slavery law was passed this year when everyone knows slavery was abolished centuries ago?

Myth Buster - slavery

FT265


The myth

Slavery was abolished in Britain in 1807 (or 1833, or 1834).


The “truth”

Holding a person in slavery became illegal in the UK on 6 April 2010. Nineteenth-century legislation made slavery illegal, in stages, throughout the British Empire, but the status of slave had never existed under English common law. Therefore, since slaves did not legally exist in this country, holding a slave was never made specifically illegal – until now. Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 makes it an offence in the UK to hold a person in slavery or servitude, or require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour. The maximum penalties are seven and 14 years imprisonment respectively. Modern anti-slavery campaigners say that there are currently 27 million slaves worldwide, in various categories, and that the use of undocumented migrants as forced labour is common in Britain. They argue that it’s only in countries where slavery has been criminalised, as opposed to merely “abolished”, that the prosecution of slaveholders becomes practical.


Sources


Correspondence with the pressure group Anti-Slavery International
'Government takes steps to erode slavery', Morning Star 5 November 2009
Coroners and Justice Act 2009
'Slavery Abolition Act 1833', Anti-Slavery Society
Anti-Slavery


Disclaimer

This is a complicated matter, and if we’ve got any of it wrong, we order you to write in and tell us.

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