Yesterday’s convictions of a brutal gang which committed ‘unforgivable acts of cruelty’ against vulnerable girls are a shocking and stark reminder that modern slavery takes many different, disturbing guises.
The gang preyed upon young girls and trafficked them across the West Country to sexually exploit them, subjecting them to unimaginable violence and humiliation. Some of these young girls were raped in a local Premier Inn. The grooming was calculated, leading to the heartbreaking testimony of one girl who told the police ‘Even though I know they were using me for sex and that, sometimes it’s just nice to be close to someone’.
The CSJ has worked to highlight the reality of modern slavery in our towns and cities. For too long it has gone unnoticed. Work is underway to change this, with a new Modern Slavery Bill which will help in prosecuting cases, amongst other measures. An Anti-Slavery Commissioner has now been appointed, with high hopes he will champion the cause of victims of this terrible crime.
This new legislation is a big step forward, but the chambers where it is being debated are a million miles from the tragic reality of yesterday’s case. Legislation is only part of the answer. Local police need to be equipped to spot the signs of modern slavery, and so do social workers. Many of the girls brutally abused by this gang were known to be at risk but were offered little supervision or support. Unless the momentum behind the new Bill reaches the frontline, little will change. Resources and training are crucial if we are to break this awful pattern of abuse.