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
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.