Police have obtained a court order in a bid to safeguard potential victims against human trafficking after an investigation at a Fenland car wash last year.
Officers visited the car wash on September 12, together with members of the Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and immigration officials.
Information given to police suggested that car wash staff were being mistreated by the management and had been working long hours for minimum wage.
Officers observed that none of the staff had a contract of employment or paid national insurance or tax. They were all paid in cash, and no staff members were wearing any form of protective clothing.
Checks at the car wash revealed that staff may have also been living on site with no mains electricity.
Numerous staff members at the site declined to make statements or support a court prosecution, but instead were happy to answer questions informally.
Two workers told police they had been financially supported in gaining entry to the UK.
In a bid to prevent future occurrence of the bad practices witnessed by officers at the car wash, police successfully obtained an Interim Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order from court.
The civil order, now in place until April 19 this year, was brought in under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
It allows the courts to place a range of restrictions on the behaviour and activities of a person who poses a risk of committing slavery or trafficking offences.
Until the order ends, car wash staff can now not work at the site unless:
. They have the right to work in the UK
. They have a valid contract of employment, made available for inspection at all times
. They have a valid national insurance number and receive a payslip showing hours worked and details of payment paid
. They are provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), have received training applicable to their role and have received safety training. Training records must be kept up to date and available for inspection at all times.
Management at the car wash are prevented from:
. Paying staff below the minimum wage
. Owning, managing or supervising premises where people identified as working at those premises sleep overnight (beginning from January 15)
. Withholding names and contact details of people owning, managing or otherwise in control of the car wash
. Funding transport of people to and from the UK, and to and from the location where they work
. Any breach of the order is criminal, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Cambridgeshire police said it is unable to name the car wash “because no criminal action has been taken against them yet and naming them could harm their business”.
DI Dave Murphy said: “This is the first time the force has secured an Interim Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order from the courts, and doing so is another positive step towards tackling human trafficking and modern day slavery.
“The conditions of the Interim Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order ensure that unscrupulous employers toe the line and treat their staff correctly and fairly.
“The order also ensures that all staff members are afforded the same pay and conditions as is expected for everyone in the UK.
“We would strongly urge anyone who suspects acts of human trafficking to report any information that could lead to the identification, discovery and recovery of victims in the UK.”
News of obtaining the court order comes as the world marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Day today (January 11).
More information about human trafficking can be found on the force’s website.