Hope for Justice worked with police forces and agencies across England on operations marking Anti-Slavery Day last week and the associated ‘Modern Slavery Week of Action’, resulting in multiple rescues and arrests.
In the biggest operation, conducted jointly with Northumbria Police and other agencies and NGOs, 14 victims were removed from situations of exploitation or potential exploitation and helped to places of safety.
The police also made a number of arrests. Five people were charged with offences and will now appear at court. Six have been bailed pending further enquiries.
The arrests followed search warrants at five addresses in the Cowgate area of Newcastle. There were also three further warrants at addresses in Houghton-le-Spring and Consett.
Hope for Justice’s European Programme Director, Neil Wain, who is the former Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said: “Hope for Justice is committed to eradicating this barbaric crime. We have been working closely with Northumbria Police, as well as other police forces and agencies around the country, on rescue investigations and operations and also on specialist training for officers to improve their capacity to identify potential victims and respond.
“It is now vital to ensure those rescued get the support and aftercare they need. Ending slavery and bringing the traffickers to justice will require exactly the kind of multi-disciplinary, multi-agency approach we have been part of during this complex, intelligence-led investigation.”
Martin French, head of the National Crime Agency’s Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking Unit, said: “Tackling modern slavery is a priority for UK law enforcement. Working with national and international partners we will use all the tools available to us to rescue victims and tackle those responsible.”
Detective Superintendent Steve Barron, of Northumbria Police’s Safeguarding Department, said: “The activity carried out today has been a truly multi-agency effort that has focused on helping vulnerable people and the four victims identified today have now been taken to places of safety so they can be supported by specialists from partner agencies and our officers.”
Hope for Justice legal director Phillipa Roberts said: “We would like to praise Northumbria Police for their commitment to identifying and tackling modern slavery, and for their dedicated partnership working on this issue, which has produced such fantastic results this week. Multi-disciplinary, multi-agency responses are the only way we will be able to eliminate this crime and to ensure the best outcomes for victims.”
Other highlights from the week of action
On Thursday, Hope for Justice investigators joined Lancashire Constabulary on an operation across Blackpool and Morecambe in which massage parlours and hotels were visited to identify potential victims of modern slavery. No instances were uncovered, but key premises will continue to be monitored and managers were given information on how to report suspicions or incidents.
Detective Sergeant Tony Atkins, one of the force’s leads working to tackle modern slavery, said: “Tackling modern slavery is not something that the constabulary can do alone. Working closely with many statutory and voluntary agencies, like we have done this week, means that we can together help those who are being exploited and mistreated.”
Hope for Justice also worked with West Yorkshire Police on an operation at Leeds Bradford Airport to make passengers on incoming European flights aware of the support that is available if they had any concerns about trafficking and modern slavery. The following day (19 October) officers in Calderdale received a report that a 19-year-old woman had been sexually exploited after allegedly being trafficked into the country. Officers from the district are liaising with Greater Manchester Police and two men aged 39 and 34, from Halifax and the Greater Manchester area respectively, have been arrested and bailed in connection with this investigation.
Detective Inspector Andy Leonard, of West Yorkshire Police’s Human Trafficking Team, said after the work with Hope for Justice: “We are committed to working with partners to collectively address the many associated aspects and effectively support the victims of sexual exploitation.”
Hope for Justice also held a number of training sessions for police forces, healthcare organisations, local authorities and others during the week, as part of our continuing programme of engagement and best practice. This proactive work is vital to increase the awareness of frontline professionals, and we have strong evidence that this increases the number of referrals of victims and potential victims to our specialist staff trained to deal with such referrals. It also increases the amount of intelligence submitted to local police forces, which in turn helps them to create a better picture of the scale of the problem.
In 2015-16, Hope for Justice trained 3,236 frontline professionals across the UK, and rescued 117 victims as a result of referrals made by individuals and agencies who we had trained to identify human trafficking.
This was the message released by Hope for Justice CEO Ben Cooley to mark Anti-Slavery Day: