Victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery are being ‘let down at every stage’ by police forces, a damning inspection report has revealed.
The report published on Tuesday by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) looked at 10 police forces – including West Yorkshire – found that overall police work was deemed reactive and showed little understanding of the nature and scale of modern slavery and human trafficking.
HM Inspector of Constabulary, Wendy Williams, who led the inspection, said: “Whilst modern slavery cases can be complex and require significant manpower, many of the shortcomings in investigating these cases reflect deficiencies in basic policing practice.
“We found inconsistent, even ineffective, identification of victims and investigations closed prematurely. As a result, victims were being left unprotected, leaving perpetrators free to continue to exploit people as commodities.”
Cases cited in the report ranged from those found sleeping in nail bars to construction sites, and involved activities from domestic servitude to the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation.
She concluded: “Victims are being let down at every stage. Forces must be more proactive in looking for, identifying and preventing modern slavery and human trafficking.”
West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson, who is the national portfolio lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners on modern slavery, said: “Human trafficking and modern day slavery is a significant threat regionally, nationally and internationally. Not only can it have a traumatic impact on its victims, but those involved in human trafficking often have links to other serious organised crime.
“This report highlights just how important it is to ensure joined up practice and leadership around tackling this abhorrent and vile crime that destroys lives and robs people of their basic right to freedom.”
West Yorkshire Police invested £3.5 million in 2014 for the creation of a dedicated police team solely investigating human trafficking.