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New blitz on city scourge of 'slave trade' traffickers
A former Bradford police chief and his team of former officers is spearheading the fight to rescue victims of people trafficking and bring their captors to justice.
Former Chief Superintendent Allan Doherty is director of operations for the charity Hope for Justice, which has rescued nearly 150 trafficking victims in the UK in the last two years.
Mr Doherty, who heads a team of four investigators based in the Bradford district and covering the north of England, said there was a large volume of trafficking going on in the Bradford area, and his team had rescued 20 people in the last two weeks alone.
In one recent case at Bradford Crown Court, a 45-year-old man, Kristian Holub, was given a three-month jail sentence after admitting a charge of requiring someone to perform forced or compulsory labour.
The court heard how three Czech nationals had come to the UK and lived with Holub and his family in Keighley, sleeping on the floor in grim conditions. The victim, Milan Tencik, was forced to work at a car wash in Manningham, Bradford and the money he was paid was kept by Holub.
Mr Doherty, who worked as a detective in Bradford targeting drug dealers, headed West Yorkshire Police’s Major Crime Unit, and was divisional commander at Airedale and North Bradford Police, said people were being forced to work 20 hour days, seven days a week, for £5 a week; live in squalid housing conditions; and eat “slop”.
He said: “The traffickers rent a house and fill it with as many people as they can. Six or seven men will be sleeping in one room and be given £25 a week to buy food for everyone. It’s like the Victorian age.”
Mr Doherty said vulnerable victims were picked up at bus and rail stations abroad and promised a lucrative job in the UK. But once here they were trapped with no money, beaten and threats made towards their families back home.
The victims were largely legal migrants from eastern European countries who only needed identification to come to Britain.
Mr Doherty said victims are made to work at car washes, food processing factories, or factories making furniture.
But trafficking also involved women being forced into sexual exploitation.
“There will be private brothels in the Bradford area where women will be trafficked and forced to perform in the sex trade for money.
“Bradford has a large volume of trafficking going on. It is a hidden crime.”
Members of his team carry out surveillance and observations of premises belonging to traffickers or where victims are being held.
They are also training hundreds of West Yorkshire Police staff to spot the signs of human trafficking and teach them how to deal with victims.
Mr Doherty said: “We rescue people ourselves where possible, then take them to the police or get them into the national referral mechanism.”
Victims can be taken to a safe house for up to 48 days. The charity also helps them to find accommodation and claim benefits they are entitled to. Mr Doherty said: “We are there to find these people and save them. Our aim is to rescue them and prosecute the perpetrators.
“Trafficking is going on right under people’s noses. It is happening in Bradford, and right across West Yorkshire. If anyone has concerns they can go on our website, or ring us, and we will investigate and deal with it.”
The charity can be contacted on 0845 519 7402, or at info@hopefor justice.org.uk.