Coventry & Warwickshire

Warwickshire farmer's regret at employing modern day slaves

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWorcestershire farmer's horror after 'modern slaves' given work

A farmer has spoken of his regret after discovering modern day slaves were given work at his premises.

Derek Wilkinson, director of Sandfields Farms based in Stratford-upon-Avon and Worcestershire, said the two victims were employed through a licensed recruitment agency.

The victims turned out to be part of the biggest modern-day slavery network ever found in the UK.

A regulator said businesses needed to be vigilant to spot signs of abuse.

One victim had worked at the farm for a day, the other for a couple of weeks.

Mr Wilkinson said his staff were trained to spot abuse and victims are encouraged to come forward.

"I regret that we've ended up with victims in our business and if we'd picked it up we would have been able to help them.

"It has been horrific and I'm really pleased the police have got the prosecution through," he said.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Eight people were sentenced to between three and 11 years for trafficking

In July, eight people were sentenced to between three and 11 years for trafficking, conspiracy to require another to perform forced labour and money laundering.

The farm worker victims had been recruited by gang member Julianna Chodakowicz, who had taken on a role at agency E-Response Recruitment, regulated by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

Paul Alekna, of Workforce Staffing, formally E-Response, said hidden exploitation was a serious problem for unskilled labour employers and said he was pleased the firm helped identify victims.

Ian Waterfield, from the GLAA, said: "Even now it's not always possible for the employer, including those who have GLAA licences, to identify those under the control of others."

Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites