A key area of work for the modern slavery police transformation programme is to debrief, learn and share as much information as possible about prior modern slavery policing operations with colleagues across police forces and wider law enforcement.
Understanding how real world situations and challenges were tackled and what the outcomes have been for victims and offenders is key to establishing best practice and in identifying lessons learned.
Sharing this type of practical guidance is particularly important for police forces. With the Modern Slavery Act being relatively new, with the nature of offending continuing to evolve and with investigations increasing in volume and complexity, it is important that real world knowledge and experience can be shared quickly.
To date more than 36 major police investigations into modern slavery related cases have been debriefed by the transformation project team. Once approved with participating forces, these operational debriefs are shared across policing and law enforcement agencies via the College of Policing’s POLKA system. (POLKA stands for Police On-Line Knowledge Area).
Key areas of good practice emerging from the operational debriefs completed so far include:
- Acknowledging the differences in the way modern slavery victims present to law enforcement and how victims need to be supported and managed to maximise potential evidential opportunities. It's also important to understand how and why people become victims of MSHT and why they are so different to victims of most other crime types.
- The importance of ensuring that MS cases are led and organised by trained officers – including those specifically trained in interviewing techniques and ABE approaches to modern slavery.
- The importance of planning successful approaches to evidence-led prosecution - and the different forms of evidence that will need to be collected in support - including the use of covert activity as a key tool. The availability of specialist support (involving financial investigators, data analysts, exhibits, disclosure officers, victim care specialists etc) is consistently required.
- Ensuring that all staff and call handlers are able to recognise the indicators of MSHT within day to day crime reports. This ensures that safeguarding processes and investigations are instigated as quickly as possible.
- The use of body worn video is proving to be of increasing value. BWV provides crucial evidence relating to the demeanour of victims, conditions in which they are found living or working and in capturing first accounts or conversations.
- Early engagement with the CPS colleagues, and in particular the CPS Complex Crime Unit, in modern slavery cases made a material difference to the efficiency and potential success of investigations.
- Victim care and engagement continues to be an area critical to the success. The use of specialists (from within policing and from partner agencies) or dedicated officers to lead on victim engagement is recommended.
- International enquiries are proving vitally important for any investigation that has an overseas footprint. A number of recent cases reviewed gained intelligence and overseas safeguarding support that was crucial to the progress of the UK investigation.
- Partnership or a multi-agency approaches to modern slavery investigations via a variety of law enforcement and external agencies consistently produces better results that no single agency could achieve.
Amongst the consistent themes emerging from this work shows how investigations must respond to the additional challenges posed by the vulnerability of victims.
Specialist investigation plans are often needed to collect and analyse evidence from a variety of other sources in order to support patterns of both victim and offender behaviour. Building a total picture of offending is increasingly important, particularly where victims are not able to provide personal testimony as part of a prosecution case.
Specialist surveillance, the analysis of financial records and detailed investigation computer data are often required. Using the full range of investigative techniques available within the powers available to both police and partners takes careful preparation, access to specialist resources and close collaboration. Early input from the Crown Prosecution Service is also often needed. Examples and best practice gathered from successful evidence-led prosecutions are available from the “What works” database on POLKA.
Operations Ludlow and Magician
Operation Ludlow, an investigation by Lancashire Police into trafficking and sexual exploitation in the North West of England is one of the operations that has already been debriefed by the “What works” team.
In this case and in the subsequent Operation Magician, the investigation teams planned for an evidence-led prosecution from the outset, given the expectation that victims would be unlikely to give evidence in any subsequent prosecution.
In Operation Ludlow, nine men were sentenced for their roles in trafficking and exploiting Romanian women for prostitution. The investigation followed a report that an address could be being used as a brothel and went on to uncover an organised crime group that was recruiting and trafficking young women for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
Surveillance also showed that the women were taken to addresses across the North West at night although they rarely left the house in the day – and never unaccompanied. Evidence from communications intercepted between the perpetrators revealed how the men, some of whom the girls had thought of as their boyfriends, shared the proceeds from the sexual services the girls were expected to provide.
A subsequent operation, (Magician) resulted in a further seven members of a human trafficking gang who also brought Romanian women into the UK to work in brothels were jailed for a total of 16 years.