Major Police Probe into trafficking leads to 528 arrests

Wednesday, 02 July, 2008

The largest ever police crackdown on human trafficking resulted in police recovering 167 victims and arresting 528 criminals associated with one of the worst crimes threatening our society.

Human trafficking victims are brought to the UK and sold as commodities for the purposes of sexual exploitation, domestic servitude or forced labour. In the fight to make the UK a hostile environment for trafficking and protect victims and potential victims from this abhorrent crime police carried out six months of targeted operations.

Pentameter 2 is a coordinated campaign of activity aimed at disrupting those who engage in trafficking for sexual exploitation throughout the UK, involving all UK police forces, other law enforcement agencies, the UK Human Trafficking Centre, and other voluntary and statutory agencies.

It was coordinated and led by a national cell staffed by Gloucestershire Constabulary which worked to the Gold Commander, Chief Constable Dr Tim Brain.

A key feature was the use of a national intelligence infrastructure, which supported police operations.

Intelligence reports were collated and placed onto a specifically created database on the HOLMES 2 system. This supported regional intelligence units and local forces, it highlighted organised crime links across the United Kingdom and beyond.

Pentameter 2 results show:

167 victims identified;
528 criminals arrested;
822 premises visited;
6,400 police intelligence reports gathered;

more than £500,000 worth of cash has been recovered from those criminals arrested and court orders are in place to restrain further criminal assets running into several millions of pounds; and
of those recovered 13 of the victims were children with the youngest aged just 14 years old.

Pentameter 2, launched on 3 October 2007, is the second operation of its kind. Pentameter 1 launched in 2006 and rescued 88 victims, led to 232 arrests and 134 perpetrators charged.

Police forces throughout the UK were focused on rescuing and protecting victims trafficked to the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation and on bringing to justice the perpetrators.

Of the 822 premises that were visited, 157 were massage parlours and saunas and 582 residential properties, evidencing the covert nature of the crime. The majority of victims recovered originated from China, South East Asia and Eastern Europe. During the operation five victims (three of which were children) who had been trafficked for forced labour were recovered.

Dr Tim Brain, Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Lead on Pentameter 2 and Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary, said:

"At its core this operation was about striking a blow against one of the most distressing aspects of serious and organised crime in this country: that of people trafficking for sexual exploitation.

"It was a large scale, coordinated operation, based in Gloucestershire and I am very proud that my staff have demonstrated excellence in delivering against the challenging task of national coordination. The lessons learned form UKP2 are being considered and it should not be underestimated how this operation will influence developments within the Police Service.

"The figures show how successful we have has been in achieving our goals. As a direct result of Pentameter 2 more than 160 vulnerable people have been saved from lives of abuse, exploitation and misery.

"Perhaps even more importantly, Pentameter 2 has been instrumental in seriously disrupting the organised crime networks responsible for human trafficking. Organised criminals view individual victims as merely another commodity, and their trafficking as a lucrative and relatively low risk activity. By arresting those involved in these offences and seizing their assets, we reduce the ability of these criminal networks to operate effectively.

"This is an example of how all forces and partners throughout the British Isles have cooperated together against an important aspect of serious and organised crime. Pentameter 1 and Pentameter 2 remain unique examples of nationally coordinated operations."

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"Human trafficking is a despicable crime, perpetrated by organised criminal gangs whose business is to make money from human misery.

"Pentameter 2 has been a great success. It is an excellent example of partnership working and I would commend all those involved who have made a real impact in rescuing victims and bringing to justice those who exploit them.

"Human trafficking has no place in modern society and I am absolutely determined that we continue to take tough action to disrupt these criminal gangs. As a signal of this commitment the Government signed the Council of Europe Convention on Human Trafficking last year and will ratify it by the end of this year."

Nick Kinsella, Head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre said:

"Pentameter 2 has been a great success and now the results need to be analysed in depth, to see what we have actually found. This operation was one of many strands of activity that are taking place in the UK or being led by UK law enforcement internationally, to combat the trafficking of human beings.

"The results from Pentameter 2 highlight that great steps have been taken to tackle the trafficking of human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. We need to build on what we have learnt and take this momentum forward. The UKHTC will continue to coordinate for the service in this regard, and with its partners will continue to take forward a diverse range of programmes to ensure that the UK becomes a hostile environment for traffickers."

New measures to tackle trafficking and support victims are published today in an update of the UK Human Trafficking Action Plan, first published last year. In reviewing the strategy new areas and opportunities were identified to combat trafficking and lead to 23 new actions being added.

The Government is committed to putting victim care and protection at the heart of it, and as a result new actions include granting victims of trafficking an initial 45 day stay in the UK followed in many cases by a further new one year temporary residency permit.

Both measures go further than the minimum standards outlined in the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking.

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