Ending sex slavery is not a Home Office target

image Let’s hope Home Secretary Jacqui Smith reads the report in today’s Times about sex slavery in Cambridgeshire. Women are said to be traded in auctions for between £500 and £3,000. They are then virtual prisoners in rented houses.

An investigation by The Times has revealed how immigration from Eastern Europe has brought a supply of women deceived into thinking good jobs await them. Instead they are sold to vice gangs. 

This is why Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence has demanded extra resources to cope with the influx of immigrants into the county. Under her calculations, the force is 100 officers short and expected to get £17.4 million less than it needs next year.

Chief Superintendent Paul Phillipson, the police commander in Peterborough, intends to prevent the spread of the brothels and the abuse of the women incarcerated in them, even though there are no Home Office targets for this kind of police work.

"This is rape and sexual abuse, happening on a daily basis, but it is unreported crime. I won’t achieve any reduction in crime statistics by closing brothels, I won’t achieve any of my core targets. But, quite frankly, I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned this is what police work is about and I know that it’s the right thing to do.”

The helpless women he has rescued would no doubt agree. And while police would not welcome more targets, why is there not any recognition on paper for them for this kind of crucial police work?

Too little has been done to help these innocent women. My MEP Robert Sturdy is planning to meet Julie Spence to see if he can help.

These women were lucky enough to escape:

Victim A
A 30-year-old Czech woman who was persuaded to come to Britain in August 2006 by the promise of a well-paid job as a waitress. She arrived at a regional airport and was taken to a house in Gloucester where her passport was taken from her, she was beaten and forced to work as a prostitute. She was subsequently sold on to a brothel in London and then auctioned again and found herself in Peterborough. This year she escaped through a bedroom window. She has been helped by the Poppy Project charity to return to the Czech Republic

Victim B
A 21-year-old Gypsy from Slovakia who was taken with a friend to Britain by car and boat by a man who promised her well-paid work as a shop assistant. She told police that after a long car journey in Britain she and her friend were sold for £1,000 to a Middle Eastern male. On her first night in a brothel in Peterborough she was raped and threatened with violence. She was told that she would receive half the money she earned but that the brothel owners would look after the cash until they were ready to let her go. She received £10 per week which then had to be repaid for toiletries and food. In spring 2007 the woman attended a sexual health clinic suffering from an acutely painful pelvic condition. She told staff what was happening to her and they passed details to Cambridgeshire police. A search warrant was executed and two Lithuanian women were arrested on suspicion of managing a brothel. Victim B has since returned to her family in Slovakia.

Victim C The woman was afraid that her captors would kill her and her family if they knew that she had talked to police. She had a friend whose back had been broken in a beating by the brothel owners. She said weekend working hours in one brothel where she was held were from 11am to 3am with prices charged at up to £100 per hour. Another woman took £12,000 in three months but was only ever given £10. She tried to hide £250 but was subjected to a beating when it was found.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing form of slavery today and is prohibited under international law, as well as under the criminal laws of the United Kingdom and other countries. Yet thousands of women, children and men are trafficked to the United Kingdom each year.

It’s ironic that Thomas Clarkson, the anti-slavery campaigner, was born in Wisbech, my home town where "sex prisons" are said to have been set up . He would have been deeply saddened to learn that more than 200 years later, people were still subjected to this horrific abuse.