Concerns raised over modern slavery in Northumberland town

Concerns have been raised about modern slavery in a Northumberland town.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 3:57 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th March 2021, 10:07 am

Fears were raised at a police and community safety update, where Councillor Trevor Cessford said there were concerns people begging for money in Hexham’s Fore Street were seen being dropped off and picked up by car.

“If you look at the boards they hold up they are all the same boards saying exactly the same thing,” the Hexham Central with Acomb represnative added

“It makes you think no matter who turns up, they just pass the boards on to them.”

Concerns were raised at a council meeting.

Cllr Trevor Cessford asked Inspector Gary Neill of Northumbria police whether the police were concerned and looking into the issue of modern slavery in Northumberland.

Inspector Neil said it was “very much an area of concern.”

Responding to Cllr Cressford, he said: “My initial concern mirror yours around are these people actually victims or not? Are they being coerced into doing it?”

He added: “They told us they are father and daughter, whether that’s the case or not I don’t know.”

According to Inspector Neill the exact nature of the relationship between these individuals and the modern-day slave trade is something police are “trying to explore.”

Neil also stated that regardless of whether or not the begging around the area was engineered by modern slavery, it was still an offence.

The area’s Public Safety Protection Order (PSPO) also gives the police extra powers in order to move people on if necessary, according to Inspector Neill.

The Home Office’s 2017 guidance around modern slavery awareness and victim identification estimates there are around 10-13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK. However, it is likely to be higher than this.

Home Office guidance also points out modern-day slavery is prevalent in “nail bars, car washes, agriculture and fishing, building sites and the sex industry.

“Other high risk situations include when there is a need for a sudden injection of workers into the work force, such as seasonal staff or construction for a major event,” it adds.

Signs of modern slavery can include but is not limited to “evidence of control over movement; either as an individual or as a group, restriction of movement and confinement to the workplace or to a limited area; passport or documents held by someone else; lack of access to medical care”.

If you wish to report a suspected case of modern slavery, you can contact the police on 101 if there is not an immediate risk of harm call or 999 if it is an emergency, or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 012 1700.

The dramatic events we are all experiencing are having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers and consequently the advertising that we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news by buying a copy of our newspaper. If you can, please do pick up a copy when you are at the shops. Thank you for your support.