Five people sentenced for trafficking, forced labour and fraud

Hope for Justice has welcomed the sentencing today of five people for trafficking and exploitation offences.

It is the second high-profile conviction for such offences in recent weeks. Hope for Justice’s investigators and advocacy team have had important roles in both cases, which have seen a combined nine people jailed for a total of 40 years.

Neil Wain, International Programme Director at Hope for Justice, said today: “Hope for Justice has worked very closely with Northumbria Police and other partners on this complex, intelligence-led case from its earliest stages, providing vital support to victims that contributed to achieving these successful convictions. Close partnership working is incredibly important to achieve justice and restoration for victims of modern slavery.

“We pay tribute to Northumbria Police for their strong commitment to tackling modern slavery, and we will continue to work with them and all police forces and other agencies around the country to improve their capacity to identify potential victims and to respond effectively.”

Today’s sentencing at Leeds Crown Court follows operations and searches in October last year in the north-east of England, attended by Hope for Justice specialists and announced by us at the time here.

Fourteen victims were identified and rescued in those operations. Hope for Justice offered support and advice, and our advocacy team has also had a role in ongoing support and restoration linked to this case, including during the criminal justice process.

Full details of today’s sentencing below, courtesy Northumbria Police:

Three men and two women have been sentenced for people trafficking into the UK for exploitation at a case heard today at Leeds Crown Court.

– Robert Dolinski, 38, was sentenced to 3 years 2 months for one count of human trafficking and one of forced labour
– Andrzej Laskowski, 37, was sentenced to 2 years 8 months for one count of human trafficking and one of forced labour
– Kewin Laskowski, 19, was sentenced to 1 year for one count of forced labour
– Maria Pawloska, 34, was sentenced to 6 months for one count of fraud by misrepresentation
– Agnieszka Laskowski, 37, was sentenced to 6 months for one count of fraud by misrepresentation

It follows an operation carried out by officers on Tuesday, October 18, in which searches were carried out at five addresses in the Cowgate area of Newcastle. Three further addresses in Houghton-le-Spring and Consett were also searched. The operation brought together Northumbria Police and staff from Newcastle, Gateshead and Durham Local Authorities, National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority, British Red Cross, Hope for Justice, NHS, Salvation Army, DWP and HMRC.

Fourteen victims were identified, who were then housed in safe locations and supported by specialists from partner agencies and Northumbria officers.

Superintendent Steve Barron said: “This investigation is the result of a successful collaboration between multiple agencies across the UK. It is important that we work together with not only our partners but with the community. The reality is that modern day slavery is happening around us and we all have a role to play to help protect those who may be vulnerable. Safeguarding is everyone’s business and as such we urge people to be the eyes and ears of the community. If you see something suspicious or something that doesn’t feel right then please report it to police. To those intent on exploiting others, we would like to send a message that Northumbria Police will not tolerate human trafficking and that we will take direct action against them.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird DBE QC, said: “We take human trafficking and exploitation very seriously. We all need to be vigilant in spotting the signs – so if something doesn’t seem right, the chances are it’s not. I will ensure Northumbria Police continues to be proactive in tackling this very important issue.”

Further details courtesy Crown Prosecution Service (CPS):

The vulnerable victims were tricked into travelling to Newcastle with the promise of well-paid work but their captors confiscated their identification documents and bank cards and took a large proportion of their wages.

Leeds Crown Court heard that the victims who came to the UK spoke little English. Their captors told them they were in debt for their travel and lodging, but the amounts owed were never made clear. Some of the victims were charged three or four times the appropriate rent for their accommodation. One man tried to escape but was captured and beaten. Another was punched in the face after he refused to decorate his flat.

Jim Hope, from the CPS, said: “The treatment of these vulnerable people was shocking. Every aspect of their lives was controlled. They were told where they could travel, where they were permitted to shop and faced the threat of violence if they failed to comply.

“The victims lived and worked alongside colleagues in factories and warehouses and yet were so terrified, they were extremely reluctant to tell anyone about their plight.

“We want to reassure victims of trafficking they are not alone and if they do come forward they will be supported. It’s thanks to the bravery of the witnesses involved that the CPS, working with our criminal justice partners, was able to secure these sentences.”