Five women, aged between 26 and 34, and three men, aged between 35 and 37 have been charged with conspiracy to traffic persons into the UK for the purpose of labour exploitation. They are appearing at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court this morning (September 19).
They were arrested earlier this week.
Seven men, all suspected victims of human trafficking and Czech nationals, were recovered to safety and have been taken to a reception centre. A total of 13 children, thought to be linked to the suspects, have now been taken to a place of safety by police and social services.
The raids were part of Operation Triage, the largest operation of its kind carried out into adult labour exploitation. It involved more than 200 staff from police, Plymouth City Council, the National Crime Agency, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), The British Red Cross, The Salvation Army and the Department for Work and Pensions.
“The scale of this operation demonstrates that we are committed to taking positive action when we receive reports of exploitation and trafficking of workers in the Plymouth area as well as targeting those who seek to gain from others’ suffering,” said chief superintendent Andy Boulting, commander of Plymouth Police.
“There is a significant amount of work still to do with this inquiry but we are focused on ensuring victims of suspected trafficking are protected and cared for as a matter of priority.”
Paul Broadbent, GLA ceo, added: “The alleged victims rescued in this case were brought to the UK on the promise of a good life and well-paid work.
‘Threats of violence’
“Instead, such people find themselves living in squalid conditions and earning a pittance under threats of violence if they failed to comply, quite simply, modern-day slaves.”
Carole Burgoyne, director of people for Plymouth City Council, said: “This day of action sends out a clear message that Plymouth will not tolerate illegal human trafficking, and agencies are working together to tackle this issue.”
The Red Cross and The Salvation Army will provide care for the suspected victims at a reception centre while police enquiries continue.
Major Anne Read, The Salvation Army’s anti-trafficking response co-ordinator, said: “Our team has been working to assess the needs of the alleged victims and ensure that they have access to accommodation and support at safe houses if needed.”
Authorities have urged anyone who has been affected by issues related to human trafficking in Plymouth or has any information to call police on 101 or the modern slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700. They can also visit www.modernslavery.co.uk for advice, support and to report offences.