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Norfolk and Suffolk police welcome new laws to help eradicate Modern Slavery

By Paul Fisher

Police are appealing for witnesses
Police are appealing for witnesses

Norfolk and Suffolk Police are welcoming new laws which will further protect victims of Modern Slavery and mean tougher penalties for offences related to Human Trafficking.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is due to come into force tomorrow (Friday 31 July) and is the first of its kind in Europe.

The new legislation will strengthen the response of the police and the courts by increasing the maximum sentence available for the most serious offenders from 14 years to life imprisonment.

It will also consolidate and simplify existing modern slavery offences into one Act and see the introduction of Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders and Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders to restrict the activity of individuals where they pose a risk of causing harm.

Law enforcement powers at sea will also be strengthened to close loopholes which can prevent the police and Border Force being able to act on board vessels at sea.

Victims will also receive enhanced protection and support throughout the criminal justice process, particularly when being required to give evidence in court and local businesses will be encouraged to take action to ensure their end-to-end supply chains are slavery free.

In order to prepare for the legislation, Norfolk and Suffolk Police have been working hard with its staff and partner agencies to raise awareness of the signs of Human Trafficking.

Detective Superintendent Steve Mattin said: “This legislation sends the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in Modern Slavery you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will face prison.

“It also says to victims that they do not have to suffer in silence and they are not alone, we are here to help.

“We have been working very hard in both Norfolk and Suffolk to educate our officers on the issue of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery to help identify potential victims within our communities, as well as working with partner agencies to ensure they get the support they need.

“Modern Slavery is a brutal form of organised crime in which people are treated as commodities and exploited. The true extent of slavery in Norfolk and Suffolk, and the rest of the UK, is unknown; however, this new legislation will help give victims the confidence to come forward and bring offenders to justice.”

Stephen Bett, PCC for Norfolk said: “I am sorry to say that Modern Slavery is a reality and is happening everywhere, including in Norfolk. There is no doubt that we are talking about an abuse of Human Rights which effects society’s most vulnerable and we all have a role to play in helping those who are being exploited. I welcome the new laws and tougher penalties.”

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: “I wholeheartedly welcome this new law which will lead to much needed tougher penalties for these despicable crimes.

“I am particularly pleased to see enhanced enforcement powers at sea. Suffolk has a long and in places quite remote coastline and it is crucial that enforcement reflects our very specific needs.

“It is important that victims have confidence to report these evil crimes be reassured that Suffolk will have the powers it needs to deal effectively with these evil perpetrators.

“I would implore people to look out for the signs of human trafficking and modern slavery and report any suspicious circumstances immediately because we have to tackle this barbarous behaviour head on.”

The Act also establishes the UK’s first ever Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner to drive forward the law enforcement response and hold them to account at all levels, ensuring that the perpetrators are caught and prosecuted and that the victims are swiftly identified so they can get help.

The newly appointed Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland OBE said: “I welcome the commitment of Norfolk and Suffolk Police forces to the increased focus on this serious criminality that often preys upon the marginalised and vulnerable and who have been targeted organised crime groups.”

Modern Slavery takes a number of forms including sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, organ harvesting and forced criminality.

Victims are often unwilling to come forward to the police or authorities, not seeing themselves as victims or fearing reprisals from their abusers. Many victims are threatened and abused, while often being made to live in poor conditions.

Spot the signs of Modern Slavery: It’s important that people are aware of how to spot the signs of someone who may have been trafficked and is being exploited.

Victims may:

· 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

Typical kinds of employment that victims may be forced into:

· Factories and farm work

· Restaurants, in particular fast food outlets

· Domestic service and hospitality

· Hand car washes and nail bars

They may also be forced into sexual exploitation as well as into crime such as pick-pocketing, begging, burglaries and the illegal drug industry.

If you do suspect that someone is being exploited or has been trafficked, do not confront the people who you believe is responsible or let the victim know of your suspicions as you may risk putting them and yourself in danger.

If you need help or think someone you know is at risk:

· call 999 if there is immediate danger

· contact the Police on 101 for help and support

· contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 012 1700

· contact Salvation Army referral helpline 0300 303 8151

· contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

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