Euan Page from the Equality and Human Rights Commission told MSPs there was a "desirability for a comprehensive human trafficking act" to consolidate and clarify the various pieces of legislation relating to human trafficking in Scotland.
Mr Page was giving evidence in a round-table evidence session of the
Equal Opportunities Committee
on the issue on Tuesday 20 March 2012.
He said: "I think we do need to address the question of better consolidation and clarity of what the law is there to do in Scotland arguably through a human trafficking act".
Also giving evidence were Bronagh Andrew from the TARA Project; Alison Di Rollo, Deputy Head, National Sexual Crimes Unit at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service; Ian Japp from the Gangmaster Licensing Authority; Jim Laird from Migrant Help; Gordon Meldrum from the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency; Shabnum Mustapha from Amnesty International Scotland; Stefan Stoyanov from Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People and John Wilkes from the Scottish Refugee Council.
Many of the witnesses highlighted the complexity of the problem of human trafficking and called for the Scottish government to take a leadership role overseeing the many agencies working to combat it in Scotland.
There was a consensus as well that victims of human trafficking do not present in a stereotypical fashion and will often be reluctant to seek help due to fear for themselves or their children, family or friends.
There was agreement that victims must be put at the centre of the process, more training for police, ambulance and firefighting staff would be helpful and there was a need to raise public awareness about the issue.
From the latest National Referral Mechanism statistics available for Scotland, in the period April 2009 until 10 February 2012, two hundred and twenty eight (228) referrals were made and of those one hundred and twenty six (126) actual cases were confirmed as victims of trafficking.
There has only been one successful conviction for trafficking in Scotland to date.
Alison Di Rollo, Deputy Head of the National Sexual Crimes Unit at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said trafficking was a very complex area of law and they could only prosecute what came through the door.
Ms Di Rollo explained that to prove trafficking required proof of transportation of the individual and trafficking could not be inferred but must be proved.
Gordon Meldrum from the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency concluded the round table discussion by saying: "The key for me in resolving some of this is actually being able to put a needle and thread throught that incredibly wide, varied patchwork quilt of individuals and organistions that actually have some of the knowledge that is critical to glue together to understand the problem, before we make sense of the problem and attack the problem in an intelligent way".
The committee then considered the Scottish government's response to a
petition from Scottish Women Against Poverty
calling for sexually graphic magazine and newspapers containing sexually graphic covers are not displayed at children's eye-level or below or adjacent to children's titles and comics and should be screen sleeved before being placed on the shelf.
The response suggests encouraging the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) to tighten up its current guidelines before considering the need for legislation.
The committee agreed to keep the petition open and write to the NRFN for a copy of the exact guidelines they send out.