Modern slavery is an umbrella term that encompasses the offences of human trafficking and slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, as defined in the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
Modern slavery frequently involves multiple victims, offenders and places; it is often hidden and may take place alongside a wide range of abuses and other criminal offences.
Human traffickers can use a variety of means to recruit, transport, receive and hide their victims such as threats or force, abduction, deception or false promises. Any consent victims have given to their treatment will be irrelevant where they have been coerced, deceived or provided with payment or benefit to achieve that consent.
Children (those aged under 18) are considered victims of trafficking, whether or not they have been coerced, deceived or paid to secure their compliance. They need only have been recruited, transported, received or harboured for the purpose of exploitation.
‘County lines’ is the term used to describe the approach taken by gangs originating from large urban areas, who travel to locations elsewhere such as county or coastal towns to sell Class A drugs. Gangs typically recruit and exploit children and vulnerable young people to courier drugs and cash. Typically, users ask for drugs via a mobile phone line used by the gang. Couriers travel between the gang’s urban base and the county or coastal locations on a regular basis to collect cash and deliver drugs.
'Cuckooing' is the term used to describe the practice where drug dealers take over the property of a vulnerable person and use it as a place from which to run their drugs business.
Groups take over addresses of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion. Often this involves the home of a Class A drug user, who is supplied with drugs to initiate a relationship. Other vulnerable groups include adults with physical or mental health problems, people with learning difficulties, people who misuse other substances such as alcohol, those recently released from custody and the elderly. Victims may initially appear to be consenting, but quickly progress to being coerced and controlled through threats and intimidation. Women who have entered into relationships with gang members are often controlled and subject to domestic abuse.
Debt bondage, where adults are told they must continue to make their property available and/or work to pay back a debt owed for drugs, is a common widespread theme, as is the use of force and coercion to exploit vulnerable adults. In some instances victims have become homeless, being forced to leave their address in fear of violence from gang members. Gangs typically also move to and/or between different addresses in an effort to evade detection. Vulnerable adults with premises are often exploited repeatedly by different gangs, sometimes within a short period of time.
'Cuckooing' in relation to the distribution and use of drugs is known to be an issue across Thames Valley, including in Slough.
Signs of various types of slavery and exploitation are often hidden, making it hard to recognise potential victims. There is no typical victim of modern slavery. Victims can be any age, gender or ethnicity or nationality. Some victims don’t understand they’re being exploited and many don’t speak English. Whilst by no means exhaustive, this is a list of some common signs.
The Willow Project has identified five questions which may help to identify someone who is a victim of modern slavery: Safer Slough Partnership - modern slavery reporting guidelines.
The community safety team recognises the need to identify and prevent all forms of modern slavery in Slough. At present the scale of modern slavery in Slough is not known, due to the nature of these offences. However, we are working with partners and agencies and have formed a multi-agency group to help develop this picture and increase our understanding of, and response to, this hidden crime in Slough.
We are reporting progress to the Safer Slough Partnership so all agencies are ready and able to identify and support victims of this crime. Efforts are being made to identify perpetrators of these offences with Thames Valley Police and other enforcement agencies, with the aim of bringing these people and organised crime groups/gangs to justice.
Safer Slough Partnership, in conjunction with The Willow Project, has produced a reporting pathway for concerns: Safer Slough Partnership - modern slavery reporting guidelines.