11 September 2011

Slavery and Servitude

Slavery and Servitude ought to be one of Jane Austen's grittier novels. It isn't, but it is a work of fiction. The BBC is reporting that 24 people have been rescued from forced labour in a Travellers' camp in Bedfordshire. This is a story I want to keep an eye on, because it presses a number of buttons: some of the "slaves" were east European migrants, and the alleged enslavers were Travellers. A dilemma for the tabloids!

But the BBC claims the arrests were made under the Slavery and Servitude Act 2010. I'd never heard of that Act (Acts of Parliament don't usually have such evocative names) so I looked it up.  It doesn't exist. Less dramatically, the relevant piece of legislation is the Coroners and Justices Act 2009, section 71. It came into force in April 2010.

Well so what, you say, does it make any difference? It bothers me that if the BBC can't get something as basic as this right, how many of the other details of the story can we believe to be accurate? It's particularly important where the story is one where the media might be expected to have a biased view already. As I say, I'll keep an eye on this. And, to be fair, The Guardian also refers to the non-existent Act, so I suppose the mistake arose with the Police or with the news agency that spread the story.

*Ooh, and there's another button pressed: the Act refers to the European Human Rights Convention, which, as every tabloid journalist knows, allows Travellers to do whatever they bloody well like.

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