Hundreds of modern slavery cases uncovered in South Yorkshire
Hundreds of modern slavery cases have been recorded in South Yorkshire in recent years, new figures reveal.
A parliamentary report on modern slavery concluded that the practice ‘pervades every community’ in the UK.
Between March 2015 and December 2018, South Yorkshire Police recorded 216 modern slavery cases, according to Home Office data.
Examples of modern slavery include domestic servitude, forced sex work or labour exploitation.
It can also involve criminal exploitation, such as cases where children or vulnerable adults are recruited into the drugs trade.
Experts have warned that a lack of support for victims could be hindering investigations, after the rate of offenders being charged fell to a record low across England and Wales.
In 2018, South Yorkshire Police carried out 70 investigations into slavery, 41 of which had been concluded by the time the data was released. Of those, none resulted in charges being brought.
Difficulty gathering evidence was cited as the reason for not bringing charges in 41 per cent of cases – 39 per cent where the victims didn't support further action being taken, and two per cent where they did.
Police closed cases without identifying suspects in 20 per cent of cases.
Police forces across England and Wales have recorded over 10,000 slavery offences since April 2015 – almost half of them in 2018 alone.
The Human Trafficking Foundation said modern slavery cases were some of the most complex police officers may ever have to deal with, involving highly vulnerable and traumatised victims who may not want to help with prosecutions.
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said when suspects were charged, 67 per cent were prosecuted.
The Home Office said the government is committed to stamping out the ‘abhorrent’ crime.
Detective Inspector Nikki Leach, from South Yorkshire Police’s anti-slavery unit, said: “South Yorkshire Police is fully committed to the investigation of the abhorrent crime of modern slavery and human trafficking.
“A team of officers works tirelessly to identify and safeguard victims and a team of specialist investigators has recently been set up to tackle the serious and organised criminality behind this offending. “In South Yorkshire we have a greater number of support providers for victims of trafficking than most other areas in the country and as such receive a greater number of reports of offending which have taken place all over the country. These are not necessarily offences committed in South Yorkshire and those which are not are forwarded to the relevant force area for their investigation.
“All offences reported to us that have occurred in South Yorkshire are thoroughly investigated by South Yorkshire Police and we are fully committed to supporting victims in the most appropriate way for the individual.”