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14 arrested after Anti-Slavery operation

21 Oct 2016 14:31 PM

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14 people are now safe following action taken by Northumbria Police and partners as part of an Anti-Slavery operation aimed at tackling human trafficking, labour exploitation and modern day slavery.

On Tuesday, October 18, officers carried out search warrants at five addresses in the Cowgate area of Newcastle. Three further addresses in Houghton-le-Spring and Consett were also searched.

In total 14 people, eight men and six women, were arrested on suspicion of trafficking people into the UK for exploitation.

Five have been charged with offences and will now appear at court. Six have been bailed pending further enquiries and three have been released and will face no further action.

The operation was carried out by police officers and staff from Newcastle City Council, National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, Gangmasters Licensing Authority, British Red Cross, and Hope for Justice.

It was part of a UK wide coordinated response to identify and arrest those responsible for human trafficking.

Detective Superintendent Steve Barron, of Northumbria Police's Safeguarding Department, said: "‘I am very pleased with what we have achieved this week, we have been able to safeguard a number of people who were vulnerable and at risk.

‘These people are now safe and supported, this has been our main priority throughout this operation. 

‘Additionally we have begun the process of bringing to justice a number of offenders, five of whom are appearing at Court today charged with serious offences related to modern slavery and human trafficking.

‘I am very grateful to all our partners and the Police Officers who have been involved in our work this week".

GLA Head of Operations Ian Waterfield said: "We are delighted to have been involved throughout all stages of this multi-agency operation. The GLA strives to work with all relevant partner agencies to combat those who seek to exploit vulnerable people. What we’ve seen this week is testament to the hard work and commitment of Northumbria Police and officers from all the partner agencies involved who continue in this fight against the exploitation of others in the UK."

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."

Vera Baird QC, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said: "This proactive crackdown by Northumbria Police to tackle human trafficking is very welcome and proves how seriously our officers are taking this very important issue. Human trafficking is not just something that happens in other countries – as these results demonstrate - it is happening right here on our doorstep.

"I hope victims who are caught up in terrible exploitation can find the confidence to speak to our officers and expose offenders so they can be brought to justice. We all have a role to play in spotting the signs though. If something doesn’t seem right, the chances are it’s not so we must all work together to identify, free and support victims. I will ensure Northumbria Police continues to tackle this issue head on."

Major Anne Read, The Salvation Army's Director for Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery, said:
"The Salvation Army is working with Northumbria Police to support potential victims of modern slavery. It is vital that victims receive immediate access to specialised support and their needs are assessed.  Once they have been identified as victims of modern slavery The Salvation Army ensures that they have access to support and accommodation at a safe house if needed.
 
The Salvation Army operates a Government contract to provide vital help to adult victims of this pitiless exploitation. We aim to give them the very best opportunity to recover through the comprehensive specialised services we can offer working with our partners.”

View the full news release