Arrests in West Sussex migrant workers exploitation enquiry
2nd November 2011
The following press statement has been released by Sussex Police
“Detectives accompanied by investigators from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) raided five addresses in Portsmouth and West Sussex, this morning, Wednesday 2 November, in an investigation aimed at dismantling an organised crime operation which has been controlling and gaining illegal benefit from the work of migrant workers employed in farms and nurseries in West Sussex.
Officials from HM Revenue & Customs are also helping the investigation and assistance was also given in searching an address by Hampshire Constabulary officers in Portsmouth.
GLA investigators are looking into allegations of unlicensed supply of workers to the agricultural sector.
At 6.30am today detectives executed search warrants under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) at a private address in Portsmouth, a private address in Tangmere and one in Bognor Regis. Three men were arrested, a 40-year old at the Portsmouth address, a 31-year old at the Tangmere address and a 43-year old at the Bognor address, on suspicion of fraud and the unlicensed supply of staff. They are detained at police custody centres in Portsmouth and Chichester for interview and further enquiries.
An office in Portsmouth and one in Havant were also entered on the authority of a PACE warrant later the same morning. A 44-year old Hayling Island man was arrested at the Havant office and is also in custody for interview and further enquiries.
All addresses have been searched and quantities of documents and computer-related material have been seized.
Officers and GLA staff also visited six West Sussex nurseries, two in Ferring, one in Chidham, one in Walberton, one in Angmering and one in Funtington, to talk to managers and workers and seek further information about their experiences. No arrests have been made at those locations.
Detective Inspector Till Sanderson of the Sussex Police Serious Organised Crime Unit said; "Our current enquiry relates to specific allegations about the unlawful supply of labour since July this year, but we are also investigating allegations that exploitation of migrant workers may have been going on for more than two years."
Margaret McKinlay, Chair of the GLA said; "This operation demonstrates the effectiveness that can be achieved working in partnership using the GLA's expertise on labour exploitation, and the police's wider powers to investigate other alleged criminality. By working together we can identify whether unlicensed activity may be linked to exploitation and forced labour, ensuring that such offences are thoroughly investigated, that the full harm to workers is exposed, and any offences properly dealt with."
Notes to editors
1. The press statement can be found at http://www.sussex.police.uk/news-andevents/news/2011/11/02/arrests-in-west-sussex-migrant-workersexploitation-enquiry
2. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) was set up to curb the exploitation of workers in the agricultural, horticultural, shellfish gathering and associated processing and packing industries.
3. Protecting workers is the key aim alongside protecting legitimate labour providers and protecting the tax payer by uncovering unpaid taxes.
4. The GLA regulate the supply of workers and labour services to any of the regulated sectors in the UK.
5. It is a criminal offence to provide labour in the industries regulated by the GLA without a licence. It is also an offence to use labour provided by unlicensed labour providers.
6. The GLA assess compliance against its Licensing Standards which reflects UK legislation, including Forced Labour Offence.
7. In December 2009 a new offence of forced labour was introduced in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland. It became an offence in Scotland in August 2010
8. The GLA issues additional guidance in its GLA Brief series, where it identifies new concerns over non-compliance, in particular forced labour http://gla.defra.gov.uk/embedded_object.asp?id=1013753
9. Margaret McKinlay, Chair of the GLA is available for interview.
Public enquiries: 0845 602 5020
Media enquiries: 0845 602 5020