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Can You Identify A Human Trafficking Victim?

Human trafficking victims are not only found chained to a bed in a brothel. In our daily lives we come across victims without even knowing it.

This FREE course discusses the main types of human trafficking in the UK and Europe including trafficking for:

  • Labour

  • Benefit fraud

  • Organ Harvesting

  • Domestic Servitude

  • Adoption

  • Sex

  Are you able to identify if the person who comes to you as a client, detainee, inmate, service user is also a victim?  Are you aware that they may be entitled to additional protection (including accommodation and financial support) due to their possible victim status?  Are you able to identify the signs of human trafficking?

This training session, which is funded by a charitable grant is provided by Migrant Help, free of charge. It not only provides information on the human trafficking indicators but also covers the additional protection and support available for potential victims of human trafficking and how to access that support.

Who Should Attend? Anyone who may come in contact with potential victims – members of the legal profession, law enforcement, law students, advice agencies advisors, police station and prison visitors, health professionals, probation officers, prison officers, magistrates and judges, and anyone intending to enter any of these professions.


  • Alison Gurden, Barrister, 1 Grays Inn Square Chambers. Bar Council Pro Bono Lawyer 2012. Specialist in criminal justice issues and a trustee of Migrant Help.
  • Human Trafficking Victim Advisors, Migrant Help. Migrant Help is a Home Office/UK Human Trafficking Centre recognised first responder for potential human trafficking victims

Venue: Friends Meeting House, Euston, London. Date: 15th January 2014. Time:  11am to 1pm, or 3pm-5pm or 5pm-7pm

2 CPD Points Accredited.

To Book: contact Alison Gurden 

or via Grays Inn Square Chambers 0207 405 0001

Is the detainee a suspected offender, a human trafficking victim, or both? The Dilemma for Custody Sergeants, First Responders, Appropriate Adults and Police Station Reps

The portrayal on TV of human trafficking investigations usually involves large scale police operations where a house or warehouse is raided and thirty to forty human trafficking victims are discovered chained to beds or walls, in the dark, and the victims are emancipated and in poor health. I have worked with law enforcement on human trafficking operations around the World, and this portrayal is rarely the reality. The whole point of human trafficking is to exploit the individuals, hence they are unlikely to be found in a state where they cannot work for their traffickers or enforcers due to the fact they are chained up all day and in very poor health. Most victims of human trafficking will be found outside in the local community or working in factories or fields. Many will only come into contact with the police due to the fact they have been suspected of committing a crime or are the victim of a crime. Their first contact with the police will be a response officer or a neighbourhood PCSO. Human trafficking victims are warned by their traffickers not to speak to the police, and may come across as hostile.

At a meeting with frontline police a few weeks ago, we discussed the daunting task for a custody sergeant in terms of identifying potential victims of human trafficking in the cells. The decision that the custody sergeant makes in the first few hours after an arrested person is presented to them at the custody desk can make or break a human trafficking investigation. This may sound dramatic, but unfortunately it is the reality.

For example, a 12 year old child is arrested for pickpocketing. The child states that they do not speak fluent English. The child is entitled to an appropriate adult in custody, the child provides a number which she says is her dad’s number. A call is made to dad who agrees to come down to the custody suite. On arrival he is polite and apologetic for his daughter’s behaviour and asks to speak to her. He then speaks to her in their native language, says that his daughter is ‘Sorry’. Is this a concerned father and contrite daughter, or a trafficking victim who has been told by her trafficker or enforcer that if she says anything he will hurt her younger sister?

The language spoken by the child is not one regularly heard in the police station, an interpreter has been requested but will not be available for a few hours, the custody sergeant is being pressurised by an officer who is due to go off shift soon and wants to interview, it is now after midnight, and the child has already been in custody for two and a half hours. Dad has stated that he speaks perfect English and is happy to interpret, he doesn’t want his daughter detained in the cells any longer than absolutely necessary, and as he is present he doesn’t see the need for lawyer, his daughter has admitted to him that she stole the mobile phone as she wanted the same type as the other girls at the school and he had told her she had better save up for one, but she stupidly saw a phone hanging out of someone’s jean pocket and decided to take it.

Due to the nature of the offence, the father’s concern and his sensible approach, it may be the best decision that the interview go ahead with Dad interpreting, hence the child is not detained at the police station late at night, and the matter can be resolved that evening. But, if Dad is a trafficker or enforcer, throughout the interview the child could be saying “he makes me steal” for which Dad’s interpretation may be “I am sorry, I apologise, I know it was wrong”.

In the latter scenario, the child may receive a reprimand or final warning for an offence for which they have a defence, but just as important, the child will see the police working with the trafficker or enforcer and not protecting her and will be highly unlikely to ever trust the police again. Add into this mix the fact that the police will release a victim back into the hands of a trafficker or enforcer, igniting huge safeguarding issues.

Those who work on human trafficking investigations are aware of the large amount of false documentation often found in premises used to house trafficking victims. This documentation is usually good quality and hence it can be simple for a trafficker to produce documentation indicating that they are the child’s father – especially in cases where the child has also been used for benefit fraud as well as pickpocketing.

Contrast the above scenario with the case of three detainees who tell the police that they are aged 15, when in actual fact one is age 20 and actively working as an enforcer of the other two. If a custody sergeant decides that there is a likelihood of the detainees being trafficking victims, and treats them all as victim, this may jeopardise any investigation into their criminal activities and again, the trafficking victims may see the police as being ‘soft’ on their enforcer and assume that he has paid off the police (as is common in many of the Origin countries for the trafficking victims). Hence the enforcer’s victims will not be open to the police, and the enforcer may be released into the hands of the social services and have disappeared within 24 hours.

These are just two of the many scenarios which a custody sergeant may face, there are many others. For example if a potential trafficking victim is kept in a cell for a few hours while the investigating officer/arresting officer decides whether that detainee is a victim or potentially involved in criminal activity, or both, any trust that the victim had in the police may have been lost by the police placing them in the exact same situation as the traffickers – locking them in a room and telling them not to worry as they are safe. The alternative is to treat the detainee as a potential victim, but this may have serious implications for any future investigation and prosecution if it can be argued that even the police did not suspect them as being involved in criminal activity. Ultimately this always has to be an operational decision, but it is a decision that should be made with awareness of the issues surrounding potential human trafficking victims.

Hence, while each police authority may have set up specialist units to investigate human trafficking, it may be the custody sergeant who plays the most important part in making or breaking the trust of a human trafficking victim. I do not, for one minute, suggest that custody sergeants and initial arresting officers are not going to recognise that in some situations the relationship between a child and a appropriate adult does not seem right, but taking the leap from this to recognising a potential human trafficking victim may be difficult.

Migrant Helpline is a Home Office/UK Human Trafficking Centre recognised first responder for potential human trafficking victims and offers free training to frontline officers and custody sergeants on identifying human trafficking victims and the current human trafficking trends. For more information contact Alison Gurden on 

Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking – Developing Police Training Materials

Are you a Custody Sergeant or Police 1st Responder?

We need your help to develop our human trafficking training.

Euston, Central London. 14Th August 2013

Migrant Help is a charity working with police forces and other Government agencies around the UK, which supports human trafficking victims.

Following on from the training we carried out last year, it became apparent that there is still a long way to go in training 1st responders, lawyers, civilian police custody staff, and prison staff so that they can effectively identify victims of human trafficking.

Due to the nature of human trafficking, it is not possible to provide exact figures of the number of people who are trafficked in the UK every year, but it is accepted by the Government, law enforcement, prosecuting authorities and charities that trafficking for both sexual exploitation and labour exploitation exists in the UK and is a problem which must be tackled.

We recognise the need to train 1st responders, lawyers, civilian custody staff, and prison staff in recognising human trafficking and have obtained funding to create and deliver training packages tailored to each of these groups, to be rolled out in the Autumn 2013.

 We are currently testing the training materials on representatives of all of the above groups in order to ensure they are as useful as possible. On 14th August 2013 (11:00 to 13:00) we are holding a round table session at Euston in Central London to review the training materials to be presented to police station custody staff, and 1st responders in Police Forces in London and South East of England, including British Transport Police.

If you are a Custody Sergeant, 1st responder (PC, PCSO or Special Constable) and would like to be involved in reviewing the materials, we would love to hear your views. There is no need to have any human trafficking knowledge, as this session will be to assess whether the materials are usable, and also whether our approach to the training is correct.

To register your interest in attending, please contact me at

Please note: We do not require you to be an official representative of your police force, as at this stage we are just testing the materials. Reasonable travel expenses incurred in attending the roundtable session will be covered.

Does it look like someone has tried to scratch their way out of the door in a brothel? Chances are the person you have had sex with is a human trafficking victim

Following on from my previous blog about human trafficking victims no longer found handcuffed to a bed in a brothel, which concentrated many on labour trafficking, it is now time to dispel some of the myths about sex trafficking.

Recent reports of police raids of brothels, and convictions of individuals for trafficking young girls and forcing them to work in the brothels, sex trafficking has again received an increased media profile.  However, these cases highlighted in the news are only the tip of the iceberg, and the sad reality is that most victims are not found until it is too late.

The US State Department report released last week makes it clear that the detection, prosecution and conviction rates for sex and labour trafficking are woefully low.  This is not a country or region based problem, globally the war on human trafficking is not being won.  One of the main problems is that human trafficking is a vast organized crime, which preys on those who are the most vulnerable or disadvantaged.  By it’s very nature the majority of sex trafficked victims are kept below the radar as in many countries brothels and prostitution are illegal.

Although there are many specialised law enforcement units working throughout the UK to identify sex traffickers and their victims, without the assistance of the public and neighborhood law enforcement, it is questionable whether the battle against sex trafficking in the UK can ever be won.

The Police Service Northern Ireland have recently launched an initiative to educate those people who use the brothels.  It is not unusual for a client of a brothel to question whether the person (woman, man, boy or girl) servicing them is doing so voluntarily.  In many cases, a client will have been asked by the person servicing them to call the police or to help them.  However, there are very few clients who have then made contact with the police or tried to help.  The excuse “I didn’t want to get involved” is one which comes up time and time again.  In reality, all that it would have taken to assist that victim is an anonymous phone call to the police.  While it is accepted that campaigns aimed at educating clients about the possibility that they are having sex with a human trafficking victim will not prevent these clients from using the brothels, it may help to raise awareness of the small things that they can do to help.  A phone call to the police or a Human trafficking support group to report a door that looks as though someone has tried to scratch their way out, or a girl who is covered in burn marks or bruises, may be the difference between life and death for that girl.

The biggest stumbling block for law enforcement is that most of the brothels which house the trafficking victims are not in mainstream places, and are not known as brothels.  A house in the middle of a housing estate, or a van driving up and down a motorway is the modern day brothel.  All it takes is an advert in the back of a newspaper, or on the internet, and the clients will come flooding in.  Many clients find the thrill of tracking down the van in the service station, or entering the house through the back door at midnight to be as much of a thrill as the sex they will then purchase when they are inside.  This is where raising public awareness makes all the difference.  A neighbour who notices that there are visitors to a house all day and night, and who calls their local neighborhood police officer, or local authority anti-social behaviour officer may ultimately be reporting on a sex trafficking ring without even knowing it.

The time has come to educate the public into looking for the signs of sex trafficking, the neighbour, the security guard at the service station, the local neighborhood police officer who regularly speaks to the local prostitutes or their clients, all of these have a vital role in the fight against sex trafficking.

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Human trafficking victims – no longer just found handcuffed to a bed in a brothel..

The common misconception is that a victim of human trafficking will be identifiable as they will either be found in the back of a lorry entering a UK port, or tied to a bed in a brothel.  

While there are still many cases such as those described, the traffickers have become much more sophisticated and are prepared to go to much greater lengths to ensure that their victims ‘blend in’ and are not so easily identifiable as victims. Labour trafficking is much more prevalent around the World than sex trafficking, although sex trafficking reflects the majority of media reporting as it is much more headline grabbing.  Whether it is labour or sex trafficking, it is all slavery…..  And in order to combat it effectively, all first responders need to be able to identify a victim when they meet one or hear about one. 

Examples of recent trafficking victims identified include:

  • teenagers working on cannabis farms, males working on farms in East Anglia;
  • young women being forced to attend the benefits office and claim benefits for themselves and their family;
  • young girls picked up from homeless shelters and then forced into prostitution and made to ‘work’ inside a van which travels around the Midlands;
  • males forced to sleep in a tent in the middle of winter and pick cockles;
  • women working as housekeepers in hotels and guesthouses.

While many of the trafficking victims come from Eastern Europe and East Asia, the pattern is clear, it is not the nationality that makes a person a victim of trafficking it is the fact they are either forced or coerced into work – they are being exploited.  While some trafficking victims may want to be rescued as they are being treated despicably and in many cases are being abused and tortured.  Others may be quite happy with the work they are undertaking.  It is these people in particular who do not consider themselves to be victims of trafficking.  A victim who works 60 hours a week, and receives only a roof over his head, food, alcohol and cigarettes in return may not consider himself to be a victim, and in many cases may be very resentful of the person or organization which takes away this way of life – hence the reason many people who are identified during a police raid as trafficking victims may not want the stigma of the ‘victim’ title and may refuse to work with the police or the other organisations which assist such victims.

Hence, identifying a trafficking victim is often not an easy task, they may be afraid of the authorities, will probably have been told not to talk to the police or anyone official looking for fear of being arrested and imprisoned.  They may consider (and in many cases, quite rightly so) that their family will be in danger if they speak to the authorities.  They may have total distrust of the authorities, having previously made a compliant which was not believed (due to the fact they were not chained to a bed in a brothel!), or may not want to lose their bed, albeit it often nothing more than a shed or tent, it may be all they have and want to cling on to.

The trafficking gangs use many ways to keep tabs on their chattels (victims), ranging from a tattoo on their arm, shaving of their eyebrows, and making them wear certain clothes.  In many cases the victims will be allowed out in the public arena, so as not to cause too much suspicion of people locked in a house, but there may be an enforcer close by, keeping an eye on the victims, or alternatively the enforcers may have taken something from the victim (such as their child) to ensure their return.  In extreme case, the victim will form a bond with their trafficker or enforcer – this is reported in many young girls who have been sex trafficked, and will refuse to accept that the enforcer is doing anything wrong, and may even recruit other young people into the brothel for the enforcers.

In summary, identifying victims of human trafficking is not an easy task.  Those most likely to come not contact with the victims are not the specialised law enforcement or Government funded units.  While these units investigate incidents of human trafficking, it is the first responders who usually have the first contact with a human trafficking victims and it is these first responders who need to be able to identify a trafficking victim.  For example, paramedics, midwives and A&E staff, neighborhood police officers, local council housing officers and enforcement officers.  It is estimated there are many victims of trafficking in prison, too afraid to say why they were working on the cannabis farm, or why they were in possession of a false passport or driving license.  Prison officers and counsellors may be the first people that a trafficking victim is able to talk to in safety.  Criminal lawyers and police station representatives are likely to have come across a victim without recognising them as a victim, such as the woman who is advised to plead guilty to running a brothel, but who was actually trafficked into the UK at the age of 13 and forced to work in the brothel, and who then formed a bond with her trafficker  and recruited other girls, as it was the only way she could get out of being sold for sex.

Unless these First Responders are able to make these identifications, the specialist human trafficking teams are able to do nothing more than touch the surface with regard to identifying human trafficking rings and putting an end to this modern day slavery. 

Are you a First Responder?  Come to a free 2 hour training session 15/1/14 Euston, 11-1pm on identifying and assisting human trafficking victims.  The course is run jointly by Migrant Help and 1 Grays Inn Square Chambers and funded by a charitable grant.

To Book:  contact  or via 1 Grays Inn Square chambers 0207 405 0001


More Concern that Criminal Lawyers may be failing migrants by providing poor advice says CCRC

More Concern that Criminal Lawyers may be failing migrants by providing poor advice

“If I had known I had a defense to not being in possession of a passport, I would not have pleaded guilty”

Due to the complexities involved, and the fact the clients are often reluctant to assist their lawyers, immigration offences prosecuted by the CPS are an area which falls outside of the general knowledge of many criminal law practitioners.  It is essential that anyone advising those suspected of immigration offenses are aware of the law.  From police station representatives to those providing representation in court, a lack of knowledge of this complex area is resulting in some clients pleading guilty or being found guilty of offenses for which they have a defense.

In interviews with inmates at the prisons housing foreign nationals, the common comment is that they were not aware that a conviction could mean they were likely to be deported at the end of their sentence.

In the USA, a failure to advise a foreign national client of the possibility of being deported if they plead guilty to an offence is regularly classed as Ineffective Counsel, and has been the result of many successful appeals.  While it is not suggested that the Ineffective Counsel arguments are adopted in the courts in England and Wales, a better awareness of the offences and defences available is essential if the clients are going to be effectively represented.

  • The detainee without a passport may have been a victim of human trafficking.
  • The youth in the YOI may mistakenly have believed that as he has leave to remain he would not be deported at the end of his sentence for his involvement in the Riots

Take the first step to identifying the immigration offences and the defences available – come along to a free training session “Identifying Victims”, where Migrant Help Prison advisors will explain their role in assisting inmates facing deportation.

Alison Gurden of 1 Grays Inn Square chambers will talk about identifying victims, including the indicators of a human trafficking victim and how they differ from a person who has been smuggled into the UK.

Click here for the course schedule and the subject areas covered  ☞  identifying clients as victims schedule

Free Training (2CPD applied for) : but places are limited – RSVP to or

  • 5th July 2012, Hotel Russell, Russell Sq, London WC1B  5BE (Russell Sq Underground). 6-8pm.  Introduction by David Malone, Head of Chambers 1 Grays Inn Square Chambers.
  • 12th July 2012, Canterbuy Christchurch University, Broadstairs campus. 3.30-5.50. Introduction by Bob Underwood, retired Police Officer and tutor of Policing Studies.

Open to anyone involved in the Criminal Justice System – e.g. police station reps, lawyers, law students, magistrates, judges, advice agencies, police officers, probation officers, prison officers.

Free Training Session – Are You Identifying Your Clients as Victims? 5th July 2012 – London. & 12 July 2012 – Canterbury Christchurch University

“If only I had identified them as victims of trafficking, I might have been able to do more to help them” – Neighbourhood PCSO, Kent.

In our daily lives we come across victims without even knowing it.   Are you able to identify if the person who comes to you as a client, detainee, inmate, service user is also a victim?  Are you aware that they may be entitled to additional protection due to their possible victim status?  Are you able to identify the signs of human trafficking, domestic abuse, rape, bullying/victimization at work?

  • Have you recognized that your client in the Youth Court may be subject to deportation if they plead guilty, even if they have leave to remain in the UK?
  • Can you understand why your homeless client has been living in the country for the past year rent free, but can no longer go back to their accommodation – perhaps they were a labour trafficked victim and the house that was provided to them by the traffickers has been raided by the Police – don’t expect them to tell you they were trafficked.
  • Are you able to identify that the defendant was a victim of male rape, and since that time his life has spiralled out of control as he lives in a drug induced haze?

This training session not only provides information on the indicators but also covers the fact that you will find victims outside of your usual line of work e.g a trafficking victim with an employment or housing complaint, a rape victim committing acts of violence in prison.

Come along to this training course to find out more about the tell tale signs, the benefits that are available, and the charitable organizations which can help, and hear the experiences of others during the discussion time.

Who Should Attend? Anyone Who Has An Interest in Learning More or Wants to Share their Experiences. This course is aimed at all those who may come in contact with potential victims, members of the legal profession, law enforcement, advice agencies, police station and prison visitors, health professionals, probation officers, prison officers, magistrates and judges.

Due to demand there are 2 sessions, London 5th July 2012, and Kent 12th July 2012.


  1. Alison Gurden, Barrister (Door Tenant 1 Grays Inn Square Chambers) = Specialising in criminal justice issues &
  2. Migrant Help Prison Advice Workers = assisting prisoners facing deportation, in prisons throughout the South East of England.

5th July 2012 Facilitator: David Malone  – Head of Chambers, 1 Grays Inn Square Chambers.

12th July 2012 Facilitator: Bob Underwood – Retired Police Officer, Lecturer in Crime and Policing Studies, Canterbury Christchurch University, Kent.

5th July 2012 Venue: Hotel Russell, Russell Square, London, WC1B 5BE (Russell Sq Underground)   Time: 6-8pm

12th July 2012 Venue: Canterbury Christchurch University, Broadstairs Campus, Northwood Road, Broadstairs, Kent CT10 2WA   Time: 3.30-5.30pm

Registration: Free, but places are limited.

RSVP: or

2 CPD points applied for.