Stuck in Traffic: A study of individuals convicted for human trafficking offences through the UK criminal justice system: characteristics, relationships and criminal justice perspectives

Student thesis: Phd


The research undertaken during the course of this thesis is an exploratory study of the characteristics of individuals convicted for human trafficking offences between 2003 and 2008 in the UK. This thesis provides a unique contribution to criminology by developing the understanding of those convicted for these offences and the policy procedures that operate to process these cases. The data comprises documentary sources in the form of pre-sentence reports and assessments, interview data from interviews with experts involved in processing human trafficking cases through the criminal justice system and quantitative data in the form of actuarial assessments of this group of offenders. The data is analysed within an interpretative policy framework which views the data not just as a social construction but as a result of particular features of policy-making in this area. The argument developed in this thesis is that there is a globally reinforced paradigm which focuses on a certain type of trafficking and has resulted in the conviction of a group of individuals with some collective characteristics.The primary contributions of this research can be drawn together under three themes; developing the knowledge regarding people convicted for human trafficking offences, understanding the role of the migration journey in terms of pathways into this offending and the implications of this for policy and the historical continuity of these themes. The use of the terms manager and worker, as opposed to trafficker and victim, allow for a more nuanced understanding of these findings and permit a degree of flexibility between the actors involved. This research demonstrates that failing to understand those people convicted for these offences results in a distorted understanding of the activity as a whole and how the involvement fits within wider issues of migration, structural inequality and gender. The findings indicate that migration processes and the status of the migrant operate to limit opportunity. Within this process migrants make a series of decisions and links with others through their networks which forms part of their pathway into this offending. Accounting for the pathways into these offences must build on the push/pull factors in order to fully appreciate the mechanisms behind individual migration. These findings confirm a historical continuity of the dominant themes in this field. The findings and future work in this area must be understood outside of the dichotomies imposed by the historical paradigms by considering the impact of the global reinforcement of policy issues and the complex interplays of power operating between all actors involved in this activity.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJonathan Spencer (Supervisor) & Jonathan Shute (Supervisor)


  • gender
  • trafficking
  • policymaking

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