Modern Slavery

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.

The anti-slavery commissioner has recently identified 17 types of modern slavery. There is an infographic listing all 17 types.

Modern slavery and organised crime groups

County lines

‘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.

Indicators of modern slavery

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.

  • Poor physical appearance: Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn and neglected. They may have untreated injuries.
  • Isolation: Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control, influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.
  • Poor living conditions: Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, or living and working at the same address.
  • Few or no belongings: Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in, day out.
  • Restricted freedom of movement: Victims may have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, such as passports.
  • Unusual travel times: Victims may be dropped off or collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night.
  • Reluctance to seek help: Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family. They may be accompanied by someone else who speaks for them.
  • Grooming: Children may not always demonstrate outward signs of distress and may have a 'bond' with those exploiting them and have been groomed to not disclose their abuse – however, they are likely to be very scared and traumatised.
  • Does the person have old or serious untreated injuries? Have they delayed seeing a healthcare professional, and are they vague, reluctant or inconsistent in explaining how the injury occurred?
  • Are there suddenly large groups of people visiting a home address? There may be a rise in anti-social behaviour. Is access to rooms in the property restricted or are doors locked?
  • Is the property overcrowded and badly cared for? Are the curtains always drawn? Is there any sign that electricity may have been tacked on from neighbouring properties or directly from power lines?
  • Is the person withdrawn or appear frightened, unable to answer questions directed at them or speak for themselves and/or an accompanying third party speaks for them? If they do speak, are they inconsistent in the information they provide, including basic facts such as the address where they live? Do they appear under the control/influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work?
  • Are workers wearing inappropriate clothing for their job? Do workers seem to have noticeably poor personal hygiene, fearful or unwilling to engage with the public?

Five questions

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

Signs specific to child victims

  • Is the child being cared for by an adult that is not their parent or legal guardian and is the quality of the relationship between the child and their adult carer poor and a reason for concern? Some children may not be attending school or registered with a GP.
  • Are there a number of unrelated children found at one address? Does the child move location frequently?
  • Children who come into contact with authorities often disappear and are re-trafficked.
  • Children may not always demonstrate outward signs of distress and may have a ‘bond’ with those exploiting them and have been groomed to not disclose their abuse – however, they are likely to be very scared and traumatised.

Slough and modern slavery

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.

Useful links for more information

Related pages