Modern slave rings and related gang violence have been on the rise in Derbyshire and the city of Derby, pushing local authorities to crackdown on these illegal setups. A senior police revealed that investigations were also being made into businesses that employed slaves.
"We are not dealing with people who operate in a civil society, this is international organised crime. These are people who are very happy to exploit the vulnerable," Derby's police commander, Chief Superintendent Jim Allen told the Derby Telegraph. He pointed out that it was up to the businesses to check where their low-wage employees were being provided from.
"If you are a high-labour, low-wage business which has employed people predominantly from Eastern Europe, are you sure they have not been trafficked? Are you sure they have not undergone some coercion or control?" he added.
"Do you talk to these people that work in your business? Are they getting the wages you are paying them? Who is bringing them to work? How are they getting to work? Who brings them home? Do they live where you think they do? Do they know how much they are getting paid? Do they have access to their bank account?"
Allen stressed that business owners need to make sure their staff are not being exploited and their business is not being used to exploit modern slaves.
"I see arrests coming from businesses in Derby and Derbyshire of people who are not performing the basic due diligence. You need to be actively, actively checking whether people are victims and if you suspect anything you must tell us - else you're in trouble," he continued, warning that those with more than one conviction for a modern day slavery offence could face a life sentence.
Allen pointed out that aside from low or zero-pay labour, slaves may also be forced to commit crimes for their masters. "Drug dealing has always gone hand in hand with other offences and so does modern slavery. Victims can feel pressured to commit other crimes just to survive and they will be victims of violence and coercion," he said. "That violent crime can spill out on the streets between different gangs."
The Derbyshire Police's move to step-up investigation into these crimes follows the recent prison sentence levied on Miroslav Bily, a Hungarian slave master. The 51-year-old was found guilty of five counts of human trafficking after it was discovered that he brought men from Eastern European countries into the UK with promises of a better life.
He then put them up in a rundown house and an infested caravan, while making them work for as little as 35p an hour.
Bily's scam was uncovered when one of his victims tried to escape and was found with no food, money, or grasp of English by a concerned member of the public who called for an ambulance. "Exploitation of fellow human beings in any way represents deliberate degrading of their value as human beings," presiding Judge Peter Cooke of the Derby Crown Court said during the sentencing.
Bily will have to serve three years and nine months of prison time.