Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire | WYPCC

West Yorkshire PCC backs report highlighting plight of adult victims of criminal exploitation

Today (Thur 23/07) the national charity organisation Hestia published their “Underground Lives: Criminal Exploitation of Adult Victims”, the latest report in their survivor voice-led series of publications.

Launched at a virtual conference attended by Mr Burns-Williamson and fellow officials including Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery, the report has called for improved data and insight about criminal exploitation in the UK.

It also calls for improved training and awareness among key professionals and ensuring services are designed to support victims of criminal exploitation.

PCC Mark Burns-Williamson was on the panel exploring the strategies employed by gangs to recruit and trap vulnerable adults into criminal exploitation. It also looked at the response from policing and support providers to break the chains of exploitation.

He said: “I welcome the Hestia report and its recommendations, and although it highlights there has been an increase in the number of modern slavery victims identified as being criminally exploited, it is also a stark insight in to the extent to which criminals will go to specifically target and exploit vulnerabilities in men, women and children to illegally profit in this way.

“Modern slavery sadly remains a very real and significant threat to our communities in the UK and we must not relent in our momentum to keep this issue in the forefront of our minds and improve our understanding, which this report certainly does.”

The PCC was also a keynote speaker at an online forum on Diversity and Inclusion in the Anti-Trafficking Sector in partnership and co-hosted by BASNET (BME Anti-Slavery Network) and The Human Trafficking Foundation.

Both events came the day after the PCC’s National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network, (NATMSN) met again with fellow PCC’s and strategic senior leaders to discuss issues including what support was and is provided to victims of modern slavery amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the event co-hosted by BASNET, the PCC spoke about how to tackle issues around diversity and inclusion in the anti-trafficking sector from the perspective of law enforcement and prosecutions.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “These are very welcome discussions and certainly Police and Crime Commissioners have a role to play to ensure that we are tackling racism and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion across our police forces and communities, as we strive to keep people safe and seek justice for victims.

“To support work locally, and at a national level, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) is forming a working group across their PCC portfolios, including their work around police workforce, ethics and integrity, criminal justice, victims, EDHR and mental health and they will use this to develop an action plan and toolkits in response to issues around representation, race disparity and disproportionality.

“Next week is World Trafficking Day Against Persons and these events and reports further serve to highlight that collectively we have to unite and work together to ensure we are recognising who is being exploited and what we can do to protect victims while ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice. Especially now more than ever as we deal with the unprecedented circumstances and increased risks brought about by Covid-19.

“We know that the investigation and prosecution of modern slavery cases can be very challenging for law enforcement and the CPS to provide positive criminal justice outcomes for victims and the police must also strike a careful balance between safeguarding victims, disrupting criminal operations and prosecuting offenders.

“To achieve this balance of prevention, protection, disruption and prosecution a truly joined up approach with partners, statutory and non-statutory agencies and communities is essential if successful outcomes are to be achieved.

“There is a great deal more to do and we must maintain our momentum in better understanding the evolving trends and in our collective efforts to keeping the victims of these vile exploitation crimes at the heart of what we do.”