136 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39:2 2019]
decisions. A conclusive grounds decision is whether, on the balance of probabilities, it is more
likely than not that the individual is a victim of human trafficking or slavery. 47
HOCA has five working days from receipt of a referral to decide whether there are
reasonable grounds to believe an individual is a potential victim of human trafficking or modern
slavery.48 HOCA may require additional information from the first responder or from specialist
NGOs or social services.49 The threshold at the reasonable grounds stage is “from the information
available so far, I believe but cannot prove” that the individual is a victim of trafficking or modern
slavery.50 If a finding of reasonable grounds is reached, suspected victims are given a place within
a government-funded safe house if necessary.51
The suspected trafficking victim is granted a reflection period of forty-five days.52 This
reflection period enables a victim to recover from any immediate physical and/or psychological
trauma before deciding whether to support an investigation or prosecution. The period can be
extended if the victim has suffered severe trauma, or if more information that will assist HOCA in
reaching a conclusive grounds decision is required. 53
During the reflection period, HOCA collects further information about the potential victim
from the first responders or other agencies.54 This information is required to make a conclusive
decision about whether the referred person is indeed a victim of human trafficking or modern
slavery. A conclusive grounds decision will be made as soon as possible following the end of the
recovery and reflection period.55 The timescale for making a conclusive grounds decision is based
on all the circumstances of the case.56 The threshold for a conclusive grounds decision is that “it
is more likely than not” that the individual is a victim of human trafficking or modern slavery.57
Where the victim is a child, first responders use the NRM’s Guidance for Child First
Responders.58 Where the age of the victim has not been established, the victim is treated as a child
until age is determined.59 Where there is an age dispute and there is an ongoing age assessment,
referral to the NRM should not be delayed if the victim is believed to be a child.60 Section 51 of
the 2015 Act contains a provision for the “Presumption about Age” for child victims of trafficking
in England and Wales.61
Potential child victims do not need to consent to their referral.62 A referral into the NRM
process and subsequent decisions do not replace or supersede established child protection
48 National Referral Mechanism, supra note 37.
52 CROWN PROSECUTION SERV., supra note 36.
53 HOME OFFICE, NATIONAL REFERRAL MECHANISM: GUIDANCE FOR CHILD FIRST RESPONDERS, available at
updated Mar. 23, 2016).
54 National Referral Mechanism, supra note 37.
58 HOME OFFICE, supra note 53, at 3.
59 Id. at 12.
60 Id. at 13.
61 Modern Slavery Act 2015 § 51.
62 CROWN PROSECUTION SERV., supra note 36.