Norfolk human traffickers deported as police chief pledges £450,000 for victims
Archant Norfolk 2016
“A dreadful, appalling and evil crime” - and it is happening on our doorstep.
That was the warning from Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore who called on everyone in the region to combat the menace of modern slavery and people trafficking.
“We all have a responsibility to tackle this scourge,” he told a conference on the topic at Potters resort in Hopton on Thursday.
It is a crime often hidden behind the closed doors of factories, farms, nail parlours and car washes.
And Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner Lorne Green announced at the conference he would put £450,000 from his budget into supporting “hidden victims” of crimes like slavery over the next three years.
“We are shinning the light on the darkest corners of Norfolk to catch those responsible,” he said.
Last year 28 suspected victims of trafficking were found in Norfolk and Suffolk and referred to the Salvation Army for help.
But police and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) know there are many more victims out there.
“All the research suggests there are far more victims in Suffolk than we are aware of and the same goes for Norfolk as well,” said Suffolk’s assistant chief constable Rachel Kearton.
The conference heard harrowing tales of an exploited car wash worker whose shoes had stuck to his feet from the chemicals used in the wash, a farm worker whose arm was broken by his gangmaster, and a British girl sexually abused by different groups of men.
The trafficked and traffickers are often from the same country, sharing friendships, business circles or even family ties.
But the traffickers do not treat those they control as fellow humans, referring to them as “horses”, Adrian Finbow from the GLAA told the conference.
“Don’t for one minute think it is not happening here (in Norfolk and Suffolk) because it is,” he said. “It is here on our doorstep and we need to do something about it.”
To tackle the problem, the Government gave the GLAA more powers from the start of this month to arrest suspects, as well as to investigate all forms of labour exploitation, whereas previously it had been restricted to the food and farming industries.
Three days after getting the new powers, the GLAA arrested a man in West Suffolk following a year-long investigation. That probe is continuing.
Twin brothers working at a Suffolk chicken factory were paid 8p a day by their gangmasters without the knowledge of the factory.
It took detectives in Suffolk and Norfolk three years to expose the abuse and in January last year two traffickers were finally jailed.
Konstantin Sasmurin, 34, and Linus Ratautas, 31, both Lithuanian nationals, were jailed at King’s Lynn Crown Court for three-and-a-half years each.
Their two Lithuanian victims were kept in shocking conditions in Great Yarmouth, given one bag of food a week from Aldi, while their wages from the factory were paid into the bank accounts of their traffickers.
Sasmurin and Ratautas pleaded guilty on the eve of their trial to trafficking people into the UK for the purposes of labour exploitation and money laundering offences. They were both also given a Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order.
Both were deported back to Lithuania in January this year.
•Report suspicions of trafficking to police on 101 or via Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
•You can also contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.
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