CONCERNS have been raised about modern slavery in a Northumberland town.

The matter was raised at a police and community safety update, where councillor Trevor Cessford said there were concerns people begging for money in Hexham’s Fore Street were seen being dropped off and picked up by car.

 “If you look at the boards they hold up they are all the same boards saying exactly the same thing,” the Hexham Central with Acomb representative added.

“It makes you think no matter who turns up, they just pass the boards on to them.”

Coun. Trevor Cessford asked inspector Garry Neill, of Northumbria Police, whether the force was concerned and looking into the issue of modern slavery in Northumberland. 

Inspector Neill said it was “very much an area of concern.” Responding to Coun. Cessford, he said: “My initial concern mirror yours around are these people actually victims or not? Are they being coerced into doing it?”

He added: “They told us they are father and daughter, whether that’s the case or not I don’t know.”

According to inspector Neill, the exact nature of the relationship between these individuals and the modern-day slave trade is something police are “trying to explore.”

Neill also stated that regardless of whether or not the begging around the area was engineered by modern slavery, it was still an offence. The area’s Public Safety Protection Order (PSPO) also gives the police extra powers in order to move people on if necessary. 

The Home Office’s 2017 guidance around modern slavery awareness and victim identification estimates there are around 10-13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK. However, it is likely to be higher than this. 

Signs of modern slavery can include but is not limited to “evidence of control over movement; either as an individual or as a group, restriction of movement and confinement to the workplace or to a limited area; passport or documents held by someone else; lack of access to medical care”.

To report a suspected case of modern slavery, people can contact police on 101 if there is not an immediate risk of harm. Call 999 if it is an emergency or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 012 1700.