NI man charged over slavery ring

Published Monday, 12 September 2011
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It has emerged that one of the four people charged with slavery offences after police carried out raids on a traveller's site in Bedfordshire was born in Northern Ireland.

The charges relate to the discovery of four men who were suspected of being kept against their will during searches at the site in Greenacres travellers' site.

The Chief Inspector of Bedfordshire police said a key member of the family involved in the alleged network of human trafficking was born in Belfast.

The accused are all from the same family of travellers and have been charged with conspiracy to holding a person in servitude and requiring them to perform forced labour. They will appear at Luton Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.

Adrian Roberts, head of the CPS Thames and Chiltern Complex Casework Unit, said: "These charges relate to four victims who allege they have been held against their will and forced to live and work like slaves.

"Police investigations into other offences relating to other potential victims at Greenacres are ongoing, further to the police raid on Sunday, September 11."

The men were arrested on Sunday during an early-morning raid on the caravan site by more than 200 police officers.

A fifth person who was arrested - a heavily pregnant woman - was released on bail on Monday and will be questioned further after the birth of her child, Bedfordshire Police said.

The raid, at 5.30am, followed a long-running investigation by the force which suggested 24 men were being held against their will in squalid conditions at the site, and forced to work for no pay.

The men were taken from the site to a medical centre. Police said they were mostly from English and eastern European backgrounds.

Detective Chief Inspector Sean O'Neil, from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire 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."

A force spokeswoman said that nine people had left the medical centre and had "chosen not to support the police investigation".

The police investigation was conducted by the major crime unit with the help of other specialist units including the dog section, helicopter and firearms support unit, and officers from the UK Human Trafficking Centre.

© UTV News
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