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1 May 2014, 13:46
13 people have been freed in Southampton after being kept as slaves.
Officers from Hampshire Constabulary carried out a number of warrants at addresses in the city, responding to concerns about forced labour yesterday (Wednesday 30 April).
A spokesperson said:
"We would like to reassure residents that the police activity is part of an ongoing investigation and there is no identified risk to the wider community."
29-year-old Lydrunas Zdanevicius was charged with two counts of knowingly holding another person in slavery or servitude and was remanded into custody to appear at Southampton Magistrates Court today (Thursday 1 May).
Two other men aged 22 and 31 from Southampton have been bailed until 30 June, pending further enquiries.
13 people were taken to a safe location by officers and are being provided assistance by members of the Red Cross.
Detective Inspector Phil Scrase ftom Hampshire Constabulary said:
"Police in Southampton have responded to reports of individuals working as forced labour robustly. This should send a clear message that this activity will not be tolerated and both the police and wider agency partners will take action to protect vulnerable people and bring offenders to justice.
"Anyone who feels they are being exploited or has knowledge of this should feel confident in coming forward to the police or other agencies."
James Kellam, Crown Advocate for the Complex Casework Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service said:
“I have today authorised Hampshire Constabulary to charge Lydrunas Zdanevicius, a Lituanian national with two offences of holding a person in servitude contrary to section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. This follows an investigation from the police into reports of individuals being forced to work in unfair conditions and for unfair pay in Southampton.
“I have carefully reviewed all the available evidence in this case and am satisfied that Zdanevicius should be charged with these offences. This decision was made in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
“Proceedings are now ongoing and the defendant has the right to a fair trial. It is very important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”
A number of agencies were involved in the execution of these warrants or are assisting in the ongoing care of individuals including: the National Crime Agency Human Trafficking Centre, the Salvation Army, Hampshire County Council, Southampton City Council, Social Services, and the Crown Prosecution Service.
A Hampshire Police statement said:
'Human trafficking destroys lives and damages communities.
'The transportation and exploitation of men, women and children by organised criminals happens across the globe and throughout the UK including here in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Southampton and Portsmouth.
'Our priority is to protect vulnerable people at risk of abuse and violence by traffickers and criminals who exploit others for profit.
'As part of our investigations, police teams are visiting sites in our communities suspected of being involved in human trafficking and modern day slavery.
'We’re also working with our partners and local groups to safeguard victims, raise awareness and encourage people to come forward with information.
'There is no identified risk to the wider community.
'If you have information that can help with our enquiries, please contact police in confidence on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
- people you believe have been trafficked or are being exploited
- things in your community that don’t seem right and you believe are linked to trafficking or slavery
- people in your community who are taking advantage of others or are intimidating or threatening vulnerable people.'