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11 September 2011

Arrests For Slavery Offences Made in Leighton Buzzard

Around 100 police officers were today involved in a series of arrests at the Greenacre caravan site in Leighton Buzzard.

The Beds and Herts Major Crime Unit joined forces with other specialist units including dog section, helicopter and firearms support unit, to execute search warrants at 5.30am this morning (Sunday 11 September).

Four residents of the site, three men and one woman were arrested using new legislation under the Slavery and Servitude Act 2010 and are being currently held at police stations across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

The Major Crime Unit has been responsible for the bringing the long-running investigation to its arrest phase which has centred around intelligence suggesting that a number of people were being held against their will in poor conditions at the site and forced to work for no pay.

Twenty-four men were taken from the site, all believed to be victims of slavery. They are mostly from English and eastern European backgrounds and range in age.

The victims were taken initially this morning to an undisclosed medical reception centre where a multi-agency approach was taken to providing medial, health and social welfare care. The local authority is now co-ordinating their social and medical needs, while police liaison officers will keep in close touch with them.

Det Chief Insp Sean O’Neil, from the Beds and Herts Major Crime Unit, said: “The men we found at the site were in a poor state of physical health and the conditions they were living in were shockingly filthy and cramped. We believe that some of them had been living and working there in a state of virtual slavery, some for just a few weeks and other for up to 15 years.

“Because of the number of victims and suspects and the size of the site, we needed the assistance of many officers from specialist units today. We are aware the operation has caused a lot of disruption to the other residents of the site and we thank them for their co-operation and understanding.

“A small number of officers are remaining at the site to complete searches and to liaise with the residents. The offences that are being investigated are extremely serious. We understand that some people may have information about what has been happening, but have been too scared to come forward and report it. People who do want to talk to us about this matter should contact us on 01707 355798, or Crimestoppers, which is both anonymous and independent from the police. You do not have to give your name, but if you do we will keep it secret,” he said.

During the operation Bedfordshire Police were assisted by officers from the UK Human Trafficking Centre.


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