Would you know how to spot the signs of modern slavery?
PUBLISHED: 11:30 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 17:08 28 October 2020
Police have urged people to know the signs of modern slavery as a charity fears victims were ‘even more hidden’ in lockdown.
Spot the signs of modern slavery
• Look malnourished or unkempt
• Be withdrawn, anxious and unwilling to interact
• Be under the control and influence of others
• Live in cramped, dirty, overcrowded accommodation
• Have no access or control of their passport or identity documents
• Appear scared, avoid eye contact, and be untrusting
• Show signs of abuse and/or have health issues
Victims may be forced into:
• Factories and farm work
• Restaurants, particularly fast food outlets
• Domestic service and hospitality
• Hand car washes and nail bars
Suffolk police have launched a new Modern Day Slavery and Vulnerable Communities Team of four staff working to pursue criminals and protect victims.
It comes as The Salvation Army shared concern at a 53% reduction in regional referrals during the first three months of lockdown.
Of 83 victims referred from the East of England to the charity in the last year, most were exploited for labour (32) or sex (32), while 12 were victims of criminal exploitation.
The Salvation Army has launched special edition face masks as part of an awareness campaign – with proceeds going to the charity’s Victim Care Fund.
Major Kathy Betteridge said the reduction in referrals suggested many were still enduring the “living nightmare” of slavery without knowing how to get help.
Temporary Chief Superintendent Marina Ericson, of Suffolk police, said the new team would enhance preventive and enforcement work alongside partners, adding: “Organised criminals target the vulnerable, often with false promises of a fresh start in a new city, town or country, a rosy picture of a better life, a good job, educational opportunity or marriage.
“Very often, the victims live in fear and are too frightened or unwilling to come forward – but this has to stop.”
Meanwhile Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore, welcomed the introduction of clear boundaries for sentencing criminals guilty of modern slavery offences.
New guidelines promise a “consistent and transparent approach” to sentencing adult offenders under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
A total of 60 people have been sentenced to an average custodial sentence of five years and four months since 2017.
Under new guidelines, the most severe penalty will be a starting point of 14 years’ custody for offenders who expect substantial financial advantage and expose victims to an extremely high risk.
Mr Passmore said: “Modern slavery is something we all need to be aware of because it is happening in Suffolk and the impact of this evil crime on victims is totally devastating.
“While the current level of convictions is low, it is sadly an increasingly prevalent crime so a review of the guidelines is important.
“I believe sentencing should act as a suitable and effective deterrent to those involved and I am not convinced the top ceiling is high enough, bearing in mind there is normally a significant reduction in the time served. Personally, I also think a life sentence should be considered for the most serious offences proven.”
If you think someone is at risk, contact the police, or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700, visit unseenuk.org, contact the Salvation Army referral helpline on 0800 808 3733, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 08000 555 111.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ipswich Star. Click the link in the orange box above for details.