Coercive, unfair or deceptive recruitment Criminal liability
Under this section, operating as a gangmaster without a licence in the agricultural, horticultural and shellfish sectors is a criminal offence. Section 12(2) also makes it an offence to be in possession of a false or improperly obtained licence. The maximum penalty is ten years’ imprisonment and/or a fine.
The GLA is responsible for investigating possible breaches, including carrying out interviews under formal caution and gathering witness evidence. They then have discretion to pursue a prosecution, issue a formal warning or take no further action.
Section 12. Offences: acting as a gangmaster, being in possession of false documents etc
(1)A person commits an offence if he acts as a gangmaster in contravention of section 6 (prohibition of unlicensed activities). For this purpose a person acting as a gangmaster does not contravene section 6 by reason only of the fact that he breaches a condition of the licence which authorises him to so act.
(2)A person commits an offence if he has in his possession or under his control—
(a)a relevant document that is false and that he knows or believes to be false,
(b)a relevant document that was improperly obtained and that he knows or believes to have been improperly obtained, or
(c)a relevant document that relates to someone else, with the intention of inducing another person to believe that he or another person acting as a gangmaster in contravention of section 6 is acting under the authority of a licence.
(3)A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) or (2) is liable on summary conviction—
(a)in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both;
(b)in Scotland or Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.
In relation to an offence committed before the commencement of section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44), for “twelve months” in paragraph (a) substitute “ six months ”.
(4)A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) or (2) is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or to a fine, or to both.
Law / United Kingdom / Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004
This Act establishes the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (“GLA”) and gives it power to issue licences to agencies in relation to the supply or use of workers for agricultural work, gathering wild creatures or plants, harvesting from fish farms and certain food process and packaging operations. Licensed gangmasters in these sectors are required to adhere to certain labour law standards, including protections against forced labour. Workers are still entitled to the protection of the Act even if they do not have leave to remain in the UK (s. 26(2).
The Act makes it an offence to supply workers in these sectors without a licence and gives the GLA power to investigate non-compliance with the labour law standards and the ability to revoke licences where appropriate.
The Act specifically applies to “bodies corporate” (s. 20), and so covers both corporate as well as individual gangmasters. The Act applies to work carried out in the UK or in the UK’s territorial sea, but importantly is not restricted to gangmasters who are situated in the UK (s. 5(3)), so in this respect has limited extraterritorial scope in that gangmasters cannot avoid the application of the Act simply by moving themselves or their company overseas.