News article

Modern slavery week of action

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Co-ordinated operation across five forces

Last week from 30 May to 3 June five south west police forces took part in a pan-European week of action on modern slavery, looking particularly at labour exploitation. Operation Hornsman was a multi-agency initiative led by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The forces involved in the south west were Avon and Somerset Police, Devon and Cornwall Police, Dorset Police, Gloucestershire Constabulary and Wiltshire Police. The regional response was co-ordinated by Devon and Cornwall police.

Devon and Cornwall Police worked with local authorities, immigration, HMRC and the Red Cross. Multi-agency visits were made to nail bars in Torbay and Exeter on the 31 May and 2 June, and neighbourhood visits to car washes and nail bars in Plymouth throughout the week.

Approximately fifty police resources deployed to twenty four locations in Devon and Cornwall. Two people were arrested for modern slavery and money laundering offences and two for immigration offences. The suspects within the police investigations have been released on bail.

Three potential victims of modern slavery in Devon and Cornwall are being supported into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), operated by the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC), which ensures that victims receive appropriate help and support. All are Vietnamese, two adult (one male, one female) and one male suspected to be under 18 years old.

Avon and Somerset Police conducted a multi-agency visit to a car wash in Somerset and visits were also conducted to multiple take away outlets within Bristol.  They also visited a residential property following concerns over potential about labour exploitation, and a 47-year-old woman remains on bail for a slavery offence and money laundering relating to a nail bar in Bath. This force worked closely with the charity Unseen. Kate Garbers, managing director at the charity, said:

 “Unseen staff joined police and other partners on multi-agency visits in Avon and Somerset and Gloucestershire.

“We attended and presented at briefings to highlight the key indicators and signs of slavery and were available on site to speak to anyone who officers were concerned about, to outline the assistance and support available.

“Unseen has also been involved through the Anti-Slavery Partnership (ASP) in creating a guide to be used for multi-agency visits."

Gloucester Constabulary conducted multi-agency visits to nail bars and car washes in Gloucester, Cheltenham and the Forest of Dean. Officers attended eleven locations, leading to the arrest of five Albanian nationals for immigration offences.

Wiltshire Police conducted multi-agency visits to 19 business locations during two co-ordinated days of action across the county, focusing on nail bars, car washes and a massage parlour. 14 arrests were made for, predominantly, immigration related offences.

Dorset Police conducted a multi-agency visit to a car wash in Poole. No arrests were made, but HMRC are continuing enquiries around pay and tax issues.

Chief Superintendent Jim Colwell of Devon and Cornwall Police, the force which co-ordinated activity across the region, said:

“Modern slavery comes in different forms which includes labour exploitation. The priority for the police in the first instance is to safeguard victims. We also seek to disrupt criminal activity associated with modern slavery and prosecute those responsible where possible.”

Devon and Cornwall Police Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, who is the national policing lead for modern slavery said: “The results from across the five force area have been very encouraging, particularly in respect of the excellent level of partnership working with other agencies on the ground and in increasing the understanding of modern slavery.

 “Victims may not regard themselves as being exploited, and are often reluctant to talk to police. If anyone suspects modern slavery is happening in their area we urge them to contact the police.”

If you suspect that modern slavery is taking place please email or call 101. Information can also be passed anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers, by calling 0800 555 111 or reporting online at

The Crimestoppers website contains a guide on recognising the signs of labour exploitation and modern slavery.


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