Greater Manchester Police have become the first police service in the UK to successfully use new anti-social behaviour legislation to obtain a closure notice on a house which was used by an alleged trafficking gang in Rochdale.
Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, along with Greater Manchester’s councils, successfully lobbied the government to introduce this crime-fighting measure via the newly passed Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. The notices allow senior police or council staff to step in and temporarily shut down non-licensed premises where they believe criminal activities such as trafficking or sexual exploitation to be taking place.
GMP staff working on Op Retriever – which last week obtained charges against five people for their part in a trafficking ring which tricked a pregnant woman to travel to the UK before â€˜sellingâ€™ her into sham marriage â€“ were able to use the new measure to temporarily close an address where it was believed a vulnerable victim was being held.
Tony Lloyd said: â€œWhen tackling crimes such as child sexual exploitation, modern slavery, and human trafficking, the immediate disruption of illegal activity is vital for the swift protection of children and other vulnerable victims. Thatâ€™s why we persuaded the government to introduce this measure.
â€œThese notices enable police to intervene and protect people more quickly and easily than ever before and I am really pleased that GMP is the first police service in the country to take advantage of these new powers.
â€œThey are just one of the tools available to police and other partners in the fight against exploitation, and they canâ€™t and shouldnâ€™t be used in isolation, but I am glad to see that the day has come where their use is making a real difference to Greater Manchesterâ€™s people and neighbourhoods.â€
In this groundbreaking case, the closure notice was put in place for 48 hours by Rochdaleâ€™s Superintendent Neil Evans, before being extended to three weeks by officials at Bury Magistrates Court.
Inspector James Faulkner, who led Op Retriever, Â has hailed the new power, saying: â€œThis is another tool which officers can use to tackle the exploitation of vulnerable people.
â€œThe use of this new legislation ensures the continued safeguarding of vulnerable persons within our communities and I am glad that GMP is blazing a trail for others to follow in the battle against trafficking and exploitation.â€