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Modern slavery: need to get ‘match fit’

Modern slavery is an ‘incredibly complex’ crime affecting the labour market and supply chain, an annual business summit by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner heard last night.

West Midlands Police Supt Nick Walton, who leads for the force on slavery, told the meeting at Aston University: “We need to get match fit around this.” He said that police were working with banks to raise awareness, giving the example that suspicions might be raised if someone in a bank could not speak English and was having his communication done by someone else, who could be a gangmaster exploiting him. Walton urged businesses to help police (and the regulator, the recently-expanded, Nottingham-based GLAA) build intelligence on this crime type. He said: “Partnership is the way to try and move forward.”

He admitted that the authorities had much to find out (which did also beg the question of how businesses could find out what to do, beyond large firms complying with the Modern Slavery Act 2015 simply by making a ‘statement’ about slavery). Walton admitted that police need to ‘change mindset’ as victims might be frightened of their exploiter, perhaps part of organised crime, and might just want to return to his home country. Police could not rely on victims to lead cases.

As for where enslaved people can be in the labour market and supply chain, Supt Walton listed car washes, restaurants, nail bars, traveller sites; factories, brothels, and farms, such as vegetable picking; care homes, building sites and begging.

More in the March 2018 print issue of Professional Security magazine. Earlier, the PCC’s lead on business crime and cyber, Waheed Saleem, and the Labour PCC David Jamieson opened the meeting, which also heard about vehicle theft; and how businesses can report crime to WMP. Mark Kenyon, chief finance officer at the Office of the West Midlands PCC, gave a presentation on the precept and budget.

What to do

If you have concerns over some supply chain or agency workers – they don’t look comfortable, they’re famished – what to do? Nothing? A HR check? What if your well-meaning intervention – speaking with the men and their gangmaster – falls flat and only gets the men into worse trouble off site? A Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority video played at the summit suggests that you ring their freephone line: 0800 432 0804 (office hours Monday to Friday and some mobile operators may charge). Visit


Until the UK Government is able to establish effective oversight of the modern slavery system as a whole, it will not be able to significantly reduce the prevalence of modern slavery or show that it is achieving value for money, according to a recent report from the National Audit Office.


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