Ben Brewster

Hi! I'm a researcher doing work around Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. Sometimes i do work on other crime and security issues too.



I’m currently working to finalise my PhD Thesis focusing on the use of multi-agency partnerships to tackle Human Traficking and Modern Slavery in the UK. The proliferation and far reaching impact of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking and its perception as a high profit, low risk crime has, in recent years, driven it towards the top of the UK’s serious and organised crime strategy, in turn cascading it down into the plans of Police and Crime Commissioners nationally.

Coinciding with Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery’s rising prominence, this ongoing piece of research seeks to analyse the structure and implementation of a leading regional anti-trafficking initiative within the UK, focusing both on the understanding of traditional law enforcement response, and the role and impact of collaborative partnerships between both statutory and non-statutory organisations. The work covers the full spectrum of activities framed within the UK’s modern slavery strategy, seeking to understand in detail measures targeting both the reduction of threat posed by those engaged in modern slavery and human trafficking, and reducing the vulnerability of those individuals and groups affected by it through the improvement of victim identification, safeguarding and support services.

The project seeks to address part of the conceptual and practical underpinning of approaches employed by UK law enforcement to tackle and prevent HT and MDS, placing particular focus on the measures being taken across a specific UK region as a primary case study, drawing upon empirical evidence from other regions for comparative analysis. The primary case study itself was selected due to well publicized efforts to increase police capacity and the development of region wide and divisional multi-agency partnerships, with data collected over a period of two years dating back to January 2015, as the police force in question sought to establish both the utility and sustainability of the specific measures being taken.

Throughout the study, the discipline of ‘Knowledge Management’ is used as a lens through which to explore and explain the effectiveness of communication, information and intelligence exchange, and collaboration between both the police and partner agencies. By considering factors such as these, the study aims to develop an appreciation of the mechanisms that enable the effective investigation of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in terms of proactive intelligence acquisition, investigative response and the recovery and safeguarding of victims, including the impact of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the NRM Pilot, and the role of anti-trafficking organisations and other NGO’s in the rehabilitation and recovery of victims, as part of a truly collaborative multi-agency model of working. The findings of the study are based up a collection of field observations, interviews and document artefacts, such as intelligence products, policy documents, investigation summaries and process maps as well as an appreciation of the existing research and evidence-base around the policing of organised crime and efforts to combat Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery.

While still ongoing, to date the research has unpacked challenges including those associated with;

// The capture and recording of crimes and intelligence, including the role of frontline staff from charities and safeguarding agencies in building trust with vulnerable communities.

// Knowledge and awareness gaps across public and private sector organisations, including frontline police officers, and the public in recognising the indicators of human trafficking and slavery, and in understanding the full scale of crime and exploitation that stems from them.

// The cultural and organisational dynamics of effective multi-agency partnership working.

// The NRM process and measures being taken to support and safeguard victims.

// Investigative challenges and international cooperation including the use of joint-investigations teams and cooperation with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

// Gaps in the current intelligence picture at national, regional and local levels, understanding why the gaps exist and the measures being taken to address them and mitigate their impact.