Friday 17 November 2017

VIDEO: Pregnant Irish woman bailed after slavery raid

Lucy Bogustawski

A pregnant Irish woman arrested on suspicion of slavery offences has been released on bail.

She was arrested yesterday, along with four Irish men, and will be questioned further following the birth of her child, which is imminent.

The group were taken into police custody for questioning following a caravan site raid which resulted in the police rescue of 24 alleged modern-day slaves.

More than 200 officers swooped on the Greenacres travellers' site in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, during the early hours of yesterday morning and found the large group of men living in squalid conditions.

The raid was launched as part of a long-running investigation by Bedfordshire Police which suggested the men were being held against their will in poor conditions at the site, and forced to work for no pay.

Police believe some may have been held for as long as 15 years.

The four arrested men remain in police custody for questioning, a spokeswoman for Bedfordshire Police said.

Following the raid, the 24 men were taken from the caravan site to a medical centre for treatment.

The force spokeswoman said: "Nine have left the medical reception centre and have chosen not to support the police investigation.

"At the moment the remaining 15 continue to be assessed for medical and welfare needs and interviews with detectives will commence today.

"It will take a number of days to establish exactly what has happened to them while living on the site."

The alleged victims who remain and are helping with the investigation include eight British men, three Polish men, a Latvian, a Lithuanian, and two further men whose nationalities are unconfirmed at this time, the spokeswoman said.

The youngest man is 30 and British and the oldest is 57 and also British.

The youngest person found on site was a 17-year-old Briton who has left the care of police and rejoined his family, police said.

Detective Chief Inspector Sean O'Neil, from the Beds and Herts Major Crime Unit, said: "Those people who we continue to help are appreciative of the support that is on offer, but it will take some time to work through with them what has happened.

"The new legislation has allowed the investigation more scope and takes into account emotional rather than physical harm.

"I am confident that while the investigation is in its early stages this is a family run 'business' and is an organised crime group that has been broken up by the Netwing operation."

The force said legislation used in the operation was Slavery and Servitude under Section 71 of the Coroners and Injustice Act.

Operation Netwing is being led by Bedfordshire Police, supported by the local and health authorities and other agencies as well as the Human Trafficking Centre at the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

Anyone with information about what has been happening at the site is asked to contact police on 01707 355798, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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