ONE of Scotland’s leading legal figures has warned Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games could lead to a surge in human trafficking and prostitution, unless the country’s police chiefs get to grips with the problem.
Senior QC and Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy said criminal gangs would seize on the 2014 Games in Scotland’s biggest city as an opportunity to traffic women from overseas and set up prostitution rings aimed at attracting men attending the event.
The warning came as a hard-hitting report, following an Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry chaired by Baroness Kennedy, claimed Scotland’s police forces had “a significant intelligence gap” in their strategy to deal with human trafficking.
Baroness Kennedy warned Scotland could be left with a “systemic problem” of prostitutes from overseas being brought into the country, both during and after the Commonwealth Games, unless the police were handed more resources to stop gangs from moving in on human trafficking.
She also warned that Scottish criminal gangs, who currently deal mainly in illegal drugs, could join forces with foreign crooks involved in human trafficking to set up “organised brothels” in Glasgow and other Scottish cities and towns.
Baroness Kennedy said that previous major sporting events, such as the 2004 Olympics in Athens, had seen criminal gangs getting involved in human trafficking.
She said: “When Athens hosted the Games, there was a big problem with this. That’s why we have to be aware that there could be an influx of human trafficking for prostitution for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“At the moment, human trafficking from organised crime is not really something that Scottish criminal gangs are involved with. It tends to be something that foreign gangs are doing.
“Human trafficking hasn’t yet permeated into Scottish criminal gangs or pimps. However, it will if the problem isn’t addressed ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2014. That’s why we have to move to stop human trafficking rings bringing girls into Scotland via London for prostitution.”
She went on: “Unless there are moves against it, Scottish criminal gangs will see opportunities for human trafficking during the Games, as major sporting events can attract this problem.
“Once you get a big event that attracts attention like the Commonwealth Games, there can be a problem with human trafficking for prostitution, raising the possibility of girls being brought into the country and moved to Scotland via London.”
Baroness Kennedy warned the Scottish Government and law enforcement chiefs to take preventative action to stop prevent criminal gangs targeting Scotland during the 2014 Games in Glasgow.
She said: “We could see organised brothels set up by gangs who currently deal in drugs, for example. That’s very much the nature of the way professional criminals operate.
“There’s always the danger that if you allow links in this way through human trafficking to be made than that, it will become more of a systemic problem that’s much harder to stop.
“Because we have the Commonwealth Games approaching, now would be a good time to get to grips with it and to put it at the top of the crime agenda.
“It could become much more of a serious problem, with human trafficking from other places, like Ireland.
“We could start to get a strong sense of it happening under the radar. No-one knows the figures about how many men are using prostitutes in this way.”
Baroness Kennedy added: “Police officers I’ve spoken to are totally on the ball with this, but it’s very easy for the police to think that human trafficking is just an immigration issue. It’s crime too. The police are not getting enough resources.
“Also, there’s a need to get information from other sources about human trafficking, such as prostitutes working in saunas in Edinburgh who could give information about this.”