West Midlands Police record zero prosecutions for modern slavery offences
West Midlands Police has not prosecuted a single person for modern slavery offences in the last two years, figures released today reveal.
Since April 2015 the force has investigated 294 crimes under the Modern Slavery Act - landmark legislation that was designed to tackle slavery and people trafficking in the UK.
But a Freedom of Information request shows that there have been zero prosecutions over the period, which saw only four people being charged.
The figures show that in 116 of the cases, officers were unable to identify a suspect.
In 15 cases suspects were released after their alleged victims refused to identify them, while 23 cases were scrapped due to a lack of evidence.
The information also shows where offences took place across the West Midlands.
A total of 28 cases occurred in Sandwell, the majority of which including holding a person in slavery and transporting people with a view to exploiting them. The borough also saw three cases of forced labour.
WMP dealt with six cases each in Dudley and Sandwell and five in Walsall.
Liberal Democrat spokesman Paul Butters said the figures showed that police and prosecutors were not doing enough to tackle modern slavery.
"These people have the powers but are not using them," he said. "We need to ensure that those responsible face the consequences. At the moment these evil people and criminal gangs are getting off scot-free."
Last month two people were arrested after 20 suspected victims of modern slavery were located in the West Midlands.
It came following simultaneous raids on the Ming Moon restaurant in Wolverhampton, Wing Wah in Coventry and Red Leaf in West Bromwich.
Police said the 20 men, who were mainly from Slovakia and Romania, were discovered as part of an investigation into the exploitation of eastern European workers for cheap labour.
A 49-year-old man and 45-year-old woman, both Slovakian, were arrested on suspicion of slavery offences by providing staff through a recruitment consultancy.
Bosses at the Wing Wah and Ming Moon have strongly denied any involvement in slavery.
WMP spokeswoman Caroline Schubert said the low charge rate was 'indicative of the national picture' and that many victims were unwilling to support prosecution.
"For some victims their goal is to be repatriated and as such they are very reluctant to stay in the UK and face their exploiters in court," she added.
"Trafficked victims are some of the most vulnerable individuals, and we acknowledge the difficulties and challenges in gaining their trust in supporting prosecutions.
"The good news is that our most recent cases we are starting to see charges.
"It’s very important that people report their concerns about slavery and trafficking to us so that we can investigate and do our utmost to protect the victims as well as prosecute the perpetrators."
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said: "Modern slavery is a hidden crime lurking in the shadows of society. The best way to tackle it is to bring it out into the light and confront it head-on."
The National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned that modern slavery and human trafficking is far more prevalent than law enforcement previously thought, with potentially tens of thousands of victims in the UK.
Will Kerr, the NCA’s director of vulnerabilities, said the real number of victims in 2016 was far higher than the 3,800 identified by official systems.
Slavery International claims that currently around 13,000 are being exploited in the UK under modern slavery.