The horrors of human trafficking highlighted in acclaimed TV programme about Luton police

Luton Police Station, Buxton Road, Luton.
Luton Police Station, Buxton Road, Luton.

For ‘24 Hours In Police Custody’ This Week Episode two of five in the second series of the critically acclaimed fly-on-the-wall documentary 24 Hours In Police Custody is continuing to attract around 2 million viewers a week, airing on Tuesdays at 9pm on Channel 4.

This week’s episode provided an insight into the complex world of human trafficking and modern slavery capturing the case in Luton of a man and a woman from Hungary arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.

The case was investigated by DC Tom Stean who discovers that both suspects are already wanted under European Arrest Warrants for other alleged offences.

Meanwhile, two alleged victims come forward to testify. As the detectives start untangling the truth, a forensic search team gains entry to the suspects’ home.

Inside they find a secret loft space where there are signs of human habitation but, as the detectives discovered, not all is what it may have appeared.The case highlighted how complex human trafficking investigations can be.

Human trafficking is the second most profitable crime type in the world, second only to drugs, with an annual trade value of around $32 billion. Across the UK over the last three years more than 1,000 men, women and children were identified as potential victims of labour trafficking in the UK. In 2012 that figure increased by 11 per cent.

Bedfordshire Police has successfully investigated a number of human trafficking cases. In July 2012 four people were convicted of various charges of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude and requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and assault.

Detective Superintendent David Cestaro, force lead for human trafficking, said: “Human trafficking is incredibly complex, primarily because the commodities which are being traded are actually people, and they are often fleeing persecution or war in their own countries or have been living rough due to addiction or other issues. “These are desperate people who, out of desperation, become entangled with criminals. They also often come from areas where police corruption is not unusual so we have to work hard to build trust in order to uncover the truth and build evidence against the offenders.

“There are of course other incidents, as shown in this week’s 24 Hours, where people falsely claim to be victims of this type of crime with the intention of obtaining some form of state support. In contrast, cases can uncover the workings of serious organised criminals so the officers have to investigate thoroughly to get to the bottom of what is actually going on.

“Everyone can help to combat this by knowing the signs to look out for and contacting the police or Crimestoppers to report their suspicions.”

What to look out for:

• Heavy security personnel at a location like a factory, farm or construction site

• Barred windows, locked doors or electronic surveillance cameras

• People living and working at the same address

• ‘Workers’ driven in between premises

• People are working in cramped and/or overcrowded conditions

• People collected very early and/or returned late

• Inappropriate clothing for the work /lack safety equipment

• Signs of malnourishment or looking unkempt

For further information, advice and help visit these websites:

Read The Signs

The UK Human Trafficking Centre


Join the debate on Twitter #policecustody

If you have any information about human trafficking or slavery you can contact the

police in confidence by calling 101 or contact the independent charity

Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

In an emergency call 999