Lincolnshire Police support ‘anti-slavery day’

Lincolnshire Police.
Lincolnshire Police.

As part of their promotion of anti-slavery day, Lincolnshire Police are using their most complex operation of its kind to demonstrate that they will leave no stone unturned when it comes to protecting victims.

Lincolnshire Police recently led ‘Operation Pottery,’ one of the largest investigations into modern slavery in the country.

Eleven defendants were sentenced in September in relation to this case, receiving sentences of up to 15 and a half years. The total custodial time handed down by the Judge was close to 80 years.

It shows that Lincolnshire is not immune to such criminality, despite being a relatively low-crime county, and that we all need to be aware of the signs and take action where necessary.

Commenting upon conviction of the Rooney family, Chief Superintendent Nikki Mayo, Senior Investigating Officer, said: “This has been our force’s largest and most complex investigation into modern slavery and we are delighted to get the right outcome for victims.

“The focus of this case has always been the victims, ensuring that they get the help and support they need to live their lives free from the treatment they received at the hands of the defendants.

“The greatest positive of this case is that so many of the victims have now got their lives back, they’ve got a real second chance at some peace and happiness and to grow and flourish in their communities – it’s very much deserved.”

Today, October 18, we will be promoting awareness of modern slavery in a bid to encourage people to spot the signs.

Detective Inspector Harry Dick works at the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), and is the Regional Coordinator for the investigation of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. He said: “Modern slavery can be found in many aspects of our daily lives, from the food we eat and clothes we wear, to the streets in which we live and the services we use. And it’s often hiding in plain sight.

“Victims of modern slavery are vulnerable people who have been manipulated or forced into a vicious cycle of harm, with little means of escape. They are exploited for labour and sex, often both, having been promised the world for themselves and their families, and all of which they never see. Instead they are ‘charged’ for their passage, for their accommodation and food, and are expected to work to ‘pay it back’ — something they can never do. They are seen and treated as commodities, bought, sold and used without care or consideration for their health and wellbeing.

“It is up to us, then, to break that cycle. Do your bit to help the little boy in South America who is being beaten and subjected to squalid conditions to make your coffee or shirt. Help the local schoolgirl who has been flattered and coerced into having sex with men. Be conscientious and ethical in your life choices. Read the labels when you go shopping, ask questions, take notice.

“A common misconception is that victims of modern slavery and human trafficking who have ‘made it here’ from overseas and are cleaning your car or painting your nails are better off – having escaped much worse conditions, but it is often not the case. If they are being exploited and trafficked they need your help.

“If you suspect someone is being forced to work or used for sex, or if you think a premises could be being used for trafficking, call police now.”

• What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is defined as slavery, servitude, or forced/compulsory labour. It does not require the person to be moved.

Human trafficking is the movement of people for the purposes of exploiting them in slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, sexual exploitation, the harvesting of their organs, securing services by force, threats or deception, and securing the services of children and vulnerable persons.

Victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are sometimes forced or coerced to commit further crimes such as drug manufacture and drug dealing, or are exploited by criminals in the sex trade or in other criminal activities.

The Modern Slavery Act came into force in 2015. This integrated a number of different aspects of law governing forced labour and child sexual exploitation, as well as increased penalties — some up to life imprisonment. It also introduced a number of new powers, such as the civil Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders for use without a criminal conviction and Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders for use as a bolt-on to a criminal conviction.

Investigations such as Operation Pottery are complex and lengthy, often concerning many victims and often with an overseas contingent. There are language barriers and victims who can be difficult to engage with. They may not recognise that what is happening to them is exploitation, they may have mistrust of police, or simply can’t see a way to escape their circumstances. Vulnerable adults and children are specifically targeted by criminal gangs and their vulnerabilities are exploited for financial gain and, at times, sexual gratification. There isn’t the need for chains or bars. Victims are made to be hostages of their personal circumstances, and those that their captors create for them. Offenders of modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) are experts in identifying vulnerability and then exploiting it to their gain.

• Modern slavery and human trafficking in the East Midlands.

There have been 298 allegations of MSHT in the East Midlands since the act came into force in July 2015 (that’s 80 in Derbyshire, 77 in Leicestershire, 41 in Lincolnshire, 34 in Northamptonshire and 66 in Nottinghamshire). Since then, in 2015 30 offences were recorded in the region. In 2016 it was at 105 and so far in 2017 there have been 139 offences recorded.

Spot the signs:

• Mini-bus ferrying people to and from a multi-occupancy residential address.

• Insufficient protective clothing or equipment to safely conduct their jobs.

• High turnaround of staff who often have insufficient English.

• Staff don’t accept or keep their own tips.

• Cheap prices.

• Victims are often thin, tired, unwell or unhappy in appearance. They can also be withdrawn, avoiding eye contact.