Medaille Trust’s International Criminal and Justice Conference has ended in Slovenia with Modern Slavery caseworkers, prosecutors and police officers from the UK and overseas pledging to work together to stop human traffickers and rescue victims of modern slavery.
The conference last week took place as the International Labour Organisation revealed that almost 50 million people are trapped in modern slavery globally.
CEO Garry Smith challenged delegates to come together, reflect together, learn together and return to work reinvigorated in the fight against traffickers.
The conference heard that there were 900 county line gangs operating in the UK. These gangs use children to sell drugs, exposing them to addiction, attacks from rival gangs and "punishment beatings". In Merseyside, Police rescued 40 adult modern slavery victims from exploitation by an organised crime group. Kent Police visited 30-40 farms in Kent interviewing workers and gathering intelligence. The force uncovered a European trafficking ring selling people for £16,500. In another appalling case, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority found a British man held in a restaurant store room, sleeping on pallets and working 12 hours a day without pay. The GLAA visited 180 car washes and found 65% of them had employment rights or labour abuse issues. Delegates discussed the short sentences given to criminals after hearing how Wiltshire Police had spent four years bringing down two criminals, only for them to receive sentences of 2 years and 2.5 years. Martin Hill from the Crown Prosecution Service led a conference discussion on how police and the CPS can collaborate earlier to ensure cases are brought to court which have a greater chance of success. Helen Gordos from the National Crime Agency said her agency has a network covering over 100 countries and urged law enforcement agencies to use the NCA more. Conference also heard from Police Officers from Poland, Czech Republic and Sweden and discussed how they were tackling human trafficking in their countries. Delegates explored how to network and work closer in order to stop traffickers and rescue their victims.
Babette Clarke from Medaille’s Moving On Project highlighted a range of support victims need and said these should to be person-centred and not re-traumatise victims. She was joined by Medaille Caseworker Ava Ritchie who said modern slavery victims are often scared of police and authorities and don't trust people. She discussed how to build rapport and deal sensitively with victims.
At the conclusion of the conference, Police and Justice Partnerships Director Marcus Dawson said human trafficking was a global problem which required a global response. He said the collaboration of UK and overseas forces will be invaluable in the fight against trafficking and modern slavery.