Immediate Release: Thursday 23 July 2020

Charity calls for improved training for police and legal services to help identify victims of criminal exploitation

Hestia launch new report at digital summit with leading experts in modern slavery and criminal exploitation

Read the 'Criminal Exploitation of Adult Victims' report

Victims of modern slavery who are forced into criminality are frequently misunderstood and treated as criminals even when they escape their exploiters. That’s according to a new report by the crisis charity Hestia who warn that victims forced into criminality are being failed.

The report highlights that during police investigations, victims of criminal exploitation are often overlooked because they are seen as suspects first and foremost. The charity is calling for specific training for the police and legal profession alongside improving data collection on this type of crime and enhancing safeguarding. Hestia say criminals have become increasingly sophisticated in their methods of targeting and recruiting victims and often know the law better than the police or legal profession.

The report is being launched at a digital summit hosted by Hestia and leading experts, including the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Dame Sara Thornton, Karen Bradley MP and Baroness Butler-Sloss.

While many victims of modern slavery are trafficked into the UK, the report reveals that British victims are in the top five nationalities targeted for criminal exploitation and Hestia warn that official figures underestimate the scale of the problem.

Learn more about our Underground Lives report series.

Patrick Ryan, Chief Executive at Hestia said:

“Our report reveals a worrying picture of abuse and exploitation of vulnerable adults and even children, with criminals developing sophisticated strategies to trap victims into a cycle of exploitation.

In the coming months as the lockdown eases, we anticipate an increase in referrals to our service. We know that traffickers are brutal and determined to get victims across borders as well as enslaving victims living in Britain. The decrease in global air travel will not deter them.

Criminals maintain tight control over their victims even after they have escaped, using a range of methods including debt bondage and threats to loved ones and the risk of re-capture and re-exploitation is significant.

As the UK anticipates an unprecedented economic downturn following the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we are able to support victims of criminal exploitation.”

Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner said:

“Covid-19 has in many ways exacerbated the vulnerability of victims and survivors, has created new vulnerabilities and has disrupted the organisations who support victims and those which bring offenders to justice. During post-Covid recovery, it is now more important than ever for us to take a partnership approach to respond to modern slavery and human trafficking, providing effective support to survivors to enable them to live a life of sustainable independence.”

One victim of criminal exploitation who shared their experiences said:

“You can’t sleep, eat, you’re scared to talk to people, you’re scared your family will get hurt. It’s confusing because they are nice at first and tell you lies but trick you and use violence, fear and intimidation so you never know who’s watching you but you are scared of every face you don’t know.”

Read the 'Criminal Exploitation of Adult Victims' report


Types of forced criminality include:

· Forced gang related criminality (drug county lines)

· Forced labour in illegal activities (cannabis cultivation)

· Forced acquisitive crime (organised shoplifting)

· Forced begging

· Trafficking for forced sham marriage

· Financial fraud

The digital summit is invite only, to attend please contact [email protected]

About Hestia:

For 50 years, Hestia has provided support and hope every step of the way of recovery. Today, millions of people are experiencing domestic abuse, modern slavery and challenges with their mental health. Hestia believes no-one should suffer alone. Together, we can make sure people find a life beyond crisis.

At Hestia we support adults and children in times of crisis. We deliver services across London and the surrounding regions, as well as campaign and advocate nationally on the issues that affect the people we work with. Last year we supported 10,766 men, women and children. This includes victims of modern slavery, women and children who have experienced domestic abuse, young care leavers and older people. From giving someone a home, to helping them to get the right mental health support, we support people at the moment of crisis and enable them to build a life beyond a crisis. We are supported by nearly 600 volunteers across London who provide specialist skills such as art therapy, yoga, IT, gardening and cooking, as well as befriending and fundraising.