Hope for Justice in the UK led workshops offering insights into modern slavery for more than 50 hoteliers and business owners in Blackpool who attended an awareness-raising seminar.
The attendees heard about a recent Lancashire case in which young girls had been trafficked in Preston and were forced into prostitution, highlighting the trend of perpetrators sexually exploiting women in hotels or rental properties.
Hope for Justice European Programme Director Neil Wain, former assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said: “It’s vital that hoteliers, business owners and their staff in the leisure and tourism industries are able to spot the signs of trafficking. Often, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to some of the guests booking rooms or using facilities. This training will provide real guidance to help people who have suspicions or concerns about trafficking to know how to report it, and how to ensure their businesses are free of this awful crime.
“It is fantastic to see how seriously Lancashire Constabulary are taking the need for modern slavery awareness in their community, and we look forward to working with them on future training and other operations.”
The seminar was opened by Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw, who said: “These crimes are a growing area of demand for the police, and while I have funded dedicated officer posts for investigations, we must all work together to tackle them effectively. The victims of these crimes can often be hidden in plain sight. Today’s event was all about recognising the signs of slavery while asking businesses and members of the public to look closer because often the warning signs are right in front of us.”
Inspector Paul McLernon from Lancashire Constabulary discussed a Preston case in which three men were brought to justice earlier this year for their part in the trafficking and sexual exploitation of two young Romanian women.
Blackpool Inspector James Martin, who co-ordinated the event, said: “We know that one of the main areas of modern slavery that we are uncovering particularly in this part of Lancashire is around the trafficking and subsequent sexual exploitation of women. With a large leisure and hospitality industry, this also means that Organised Crime Groups could use these establishments as spaces where they may be forcing individuals into prostitution and committing offences under the Modern Slavery Act.
“Often these victims will not come forward and are being controlled through fear or acts of violence. This seminar has enabled us to link directly with the industries that could be exploited by these criminals and to empower them to challenge what might be happening. In some cases they could be helping us to safeguard very vulnerable victims and put a stop to modern slavery.”
The seminar took place at the Hilton Hotel on Friday 18 November and was funded by the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner as well as Lancashire Partnership Against Crime (LANPAC).
In 2015-16, Hope for Justice trained 3,236 frontline professionals across the UK, and rescued 117 victims as a direct result of referrals made by individuals and agencies who we had trained to identify human trafficking.