Five arrested in human trafficking probe which saw Houghton home raided

A home in High Street, Easington Lane, was raided on Tuesday.
A home in High Street, Easington Lane, was raided on Tuesday.

Five people have been charged as part of an anti-slavery operation which included a raid on a home in Houghton earlier this week.

Officers carried out search warrants on eight addresses across the North East on Tuesday, including one on High Street, Easington Lane.

In total, 14 people - eight men and six women - were arrested on suspicion of trafficking people into the UK for exploitation.

Five have now been charged with offences, while six have been bailed pending further enquiries and three have been released and will face no further action.

Five of the addresses searched were in the Cowgate area of Newcastle, while there were three between Houghton and Consett.

Fourteen people have now been made safe following action taken by Northumbria Police and partners.

The operation was carried out by police officers and staff from Newcastle City Council, National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, Gangmasters Licensing Authority, British Red Cross, and Hope for Justice.

It was part of a UK wide coordinated response to identify and arrest those responsible for human trafficking. This case in particular surrounds the Polish community.

Detective Superintendent Steve Barron, of Northumbria Police's Safeguarding Department, said: "I am very pleased with what we have achieved this week, we have been able to safeguard a number of people who were vulnerable and at risk.

"These people are now safe and supported, this has been our main priority throughout this operation.

"Additionally we have begun the process of bringing to justice a number of offenders, five of whom are appearing at Court today charged with serious offences related to modern slavery and human trafficking.

"I am very grateful to all our partners and the Police Officers who have been involved in our work this week."

GLA head of operations Ian Waterfield said: “We are delighted to have been involved throughout all stages of this multi-agency operation.

"The GLA strives to work with all relevant partner agencies to combat those who seek to exploit vulnerable people.

"What we’ve seen this week is testament to the hard work and commitment of Northumbria Police and officers from all the partner agencies involved who continue in this fight against the exploitation of others in the UK."

Hope for Justice legal director Phillipa Roberts said: “We would like to praise Northumbria Police for their commitment to identifying and tackling modern slavery, and for their dedicated partnership working on this issue, which has produced such fantastic results this week.

"Multi-disciplinary, multi-agency responses are the only way we will be able to eliminate this crime and to ensure the best outcomes for victims."

Vera Baird QC, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said: “This proactive crackdown by Northumbria Police to tackle human trafficking is very welcome and proves how seriously our officers are taking this very important issue.

"Human trafficking is not just something that happens in other countries – as these results demonstrate - it is happening right here on our doorstep.

"I hope victims who are caught up in terrible exploitation can find the confidence to speak to our officers and expose offenders so they can be brought to justice. We all have a role to play in spotting the signs though.

"If something doesn’t seem right, the chances are it’s not so we must all work together to identify, free and support victims. I will ensure Northumbria Police continues to tackle this issue head on.”

The five people who have been charged are all from the Newcastle area.