Slowly but surely, British court cases are revealing a once great
 nation of abolitionists to be a shadow of its former self.  We
often celebrate the nineteenth century anti-slavery movement
and its precious victory.  We hail their achievement and honour
 our Parliament’s noblest hour.
But like weeds in a neglected garden, slavery has returned.  Its
roots remained intact – inherent in humanity’s darkest
weaknesses.  Today, it is aggressive and hidden.  It lives in
 the shadows of Britain’s cities, towns and villages.  And as
this morning’s Centre for Social Justice report reveals, too
 often it thrives uncontested.
In the hands of international bureaucrats the problem has
 become better known as ‘human trafficking’.  But just like
 ‘collateral damage’, these words mask the terror, injustice
and nature of abuse inflicted on those who are its victims.
Across and within UK borders, vile child and sexual
 exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude
trap people in terrible torture.  Enslaved in cauldrons
of abuse, many are threatened with rape, death or brutal
 attacks on their families back home at the slightest hint
of rebellion.  There are growing numbers of British-born
victims too.  School girls moved around the UK at weekends
 – raped numerous times a night – and back in the
classroom on Monday.  This is a modern day underworld.
Behind closed doors, these victims are voiceless and
petrified.  Most, of course, are not free to walk away.
 And those who can often don’t, fearing immediate
arrest or deportation. And those who do escape receive
inadequate support.
We are losing the battle.  Ministers and officials are
 clueless about the scale of this exploitation, largely
 because the national identification system is not
trusted by those who are supposed to use it. Police
officers, social workers, health professionals and
prison governors regularly fail to recognise slavery
 victims when they come face-to-face with them.
 Police officers arresting a female victim who had
escaped from a brothel because she didn’t have a
passport is one such example of this.
And when someone does manage to pick the right
fight against the criminals rather than the victims,
our messy legislative framework stops them in their
It is the blind leading the blind.  This breeds political
 complacency and cosiness.  Many in authority
defend the status quo and argue all is well.  But
palpably it is not. And it is irresponsible to pretend
William Wilberforce once famously stood up in
the House of Commons and said: ‘You may choose
to look the other way, but you can never say again
 that you did not know.’  How pertinent those
words remain in 2013.  So who is prepared to stand
up and say the same today?
Christian Guy is Managing Director of the Centre 
for Social Justice.