Eight members of a trafficking gang, some of whose victims have been supported by Hope for Justice, have been convicted of exploitation offences.
Hope for Justice has been supporting two of the victims of the gang since January 2015. Both survivors were key witnesses, but were homeless and destitute after their state-funded support provision ended. Our Advocacy Team supported them to access accommodation, subsistence, alcohol support, healthcare and legal advice. It was a long process of continuous advocacy to get the relevant service providers to accept that they were entitled to these things as EEA nationals and/or as recognised victims of trafficking. We also referred both survivors for supported employment opportunities.
The Hope UK Advocacy team attended court each day with the survivors as they gave evidence.
In our experience, survivors who lack this intensive support often disengage from the criminal justice process. Good-quality victim care leads to more convictions, as we have seen in this case.
You can read more about the case in the below news release, courtesy of West Yorkshire Police.
Members of an Organised Crime Group which trafficked victims from Slovakia into Leeds have been convicted of exploitation offences.
An investigation by West Yorkshire Police’s Human Trafficking Unit discovered that the group would often target single and vulnerable men in extreme poverty and promise them a better life or use the threat of violence to bring them to the UK. They also trafficked families with young children into the UK. Once the victims were in the UK the group would exploit them – housing them in nearby, often sub-standard accommodation (controlled by them) and arranging the victims’ housing benefits to be paid directly to the group.
The group would also set up bank accounts in the victim’s names but would then take all or some control of these before getting them to sign on to any other benefits available to them.
Frantisek Cisar, 37, of Rayleigh Street, Bradford was found guilty of one count of Conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel to the United Kingdom for Exploitation and six counts of arranging or facilitating the travel within the United Kingdom of another for exploitation.
Bohuslava Cisarova, 33, of Rayleigh Street, Bradford was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel to the United Kingdom and two counts of arranging or facilitating the travel within the United Kingdom of another for exploitation.
Arpad Jano, 41, of Rayleigh Street, Bradford, was found guilty of one count of Conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel to the United Kingdom for Exploitation and three counts of arranging or facilitating the travel within the United Kingdom of another for exploitation.
Bohuslava Cisarova, 60, of St Leonards Road, Bradford, was found guilty of one count of Conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel to the United Kingdom for Exploitation and one count of arranging or facilitating the travel within the United Kingdom of another for exploitation.
Jan Cisar, 62, of St Leonards Road, Bradford, was found guilty of one count of Conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel to the United Kingdom for Exploitation and one count of arranging or facilitating the travel within the United Kingdom of another for exploitation.
Marcel Cisar, 34, of Rayleigh Street, Bradford, was found guilty of one count of arranging or facilitating the travel within the United Kingdom of another for exploitation and two counts of arranging of facilitating the travel to the United Kingdom of another for exploitation.
Aurangzeb Naseem,43, of Otley Road, Leeds was found guilty of three counts of arranging or facilitating the travel within the United Kingdom of another for exploitation
Mohammed Naseem, 60, of Otley Road, Leeds, was found guilty of three counts of arranging or facilitating the travel within the United Kingdom of another for exploitation.
Superintendent Warren Stevenson of West Yorkshire Police said: “These people were in involved in modern day slavery – a crime that trades in human misery. They traded in victims.
“It is a terrible crime that can have a devastating impact on victims. The victims were vulnerable people and were reliant on the group. The victims who could work were put into employment and again, their wages were taken from them and they were left with a subsistence amount on which to live.
“Some were paid as little as £5 a day. The work was predominantly with the construction company owned by the Naseems who benefited not only from cheap labour but also improvements to their own homes. Some of the victims had been in the UK for up to five years and members of the group used the fear of violence to control victims as well as ensuring the victims had a dependency on them by taking their documents and controlling their finances and lifestyle.”
In a pre-planned operation in November 2013 West Yorkshire Police, which was one of the first forces to have a unit set up specifically to target human trafficking, and partners raided addresses across the south and west of Leeds.
A total of 37 victims aged 1 to 57 (at the time) were rescued and referred to the National Referral Mechanism. They have since been given the appropriate support. Supt Stevenson added: “This was a detailed and thorough investigation. It has taken some time since we made the initial arrests to bring those responsible to justice. But the officers involved have never given up and showed how determined they are to bring people involved in this vile crime to justice.
“This was a real partnership approach – and when we rescued the victims various agencies came together to ensure those in greatest need received the help and support they needed at the victim recovery centres. We worked with partners including Leeds City Council, the DWP and HMRC, NHS, Salvation Army, Hope for Justice and CPS.
“Modern Day Slavery is a crime that is often ‘hidden in plain sight’ and we believe it to be very under-reported. As a Force we want people to report their suspicions and are encouraging people to know some of the signs that could indicate Modern Day Slavery. By knowing the potential signs of it you can help us to prevent it.”
Signs include (this is not a check list – just one sign could indicate Modern Day Slavery):
– Is there a house on your street that isn’t quite right or in keeping with the others?
– Do the people living there seem isolated or secretive? Do more people appear to be living in the house than you would normally expect?
– Are the house windows covered from the inside?
– Have you ever noticed anyone taking an excessive amount of bed mattresses into the house?
– Have you been ignored if you’ve tried to make conversation or eye contact with anyone living in the house?
– Do the people that live there get collected / taken to work early in the morning and returned late at night?
People can also be trafficked for domestic servitude. This is type of trafficking that again is usually well hidden.
You might notice that of your neighbours there is one person in the household treated very differently – for example washing in the garden or always being accompanied when outside of the house and not engaging with strangers. As with previously recovered victims, the person trafficked may attend their place of worship with the family.
West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Mark Burns-Williamson, said: “This case highlights the dedication and commitment of West Yorkshire Police and the Human Trafficking Team to relentlessly pursue the perpetrators of this horrendous crime and seek justice for the victims.
“These investigations are often extremely complex and challenging and the tenacity of all the officers and partners involved in this case is commendable.
“These convictions send a clear message to those people who would exploit the vulnerable for profit, that this abuse will not be tolerated.
“Human trafficking and modern slavery continues to have a devastating and destructive impact on individuals and our communities and we must maintain our enthusiasm and momentum to tackle it. Since this investigation began in 2013, a great deal has been achieved to improve the police and partnership response to identify more victims and increase prosecutions, however, we must all remain unrelenting in our efforts and continue to keep the victims and survivors of this crime at the heart of what we do.
“We also need the support of our communities to work with us to stop these people who trade in human lives and encourage victims to seek help.”