A worker suspected of being a victim of human trafficking was taken into the care of authorities, and a variety of other possible offences uncovered, during an operation led by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) into hand car wash businesses across Nottingham.
The GLAA was accompanied by officers from Nottinghamshire Police, Nottingham City Council and HMRC as it visited four different sites on Tuesday November 21.
Issues were discovered at a number of sites with investigations continuing into possible modern slavery offences as well as breaches of tax, National Minimum Wage and health and safety legislation.
Car wash workers were interviewed and concerns registered about a number who were unwilling to engage with officers on the day.
One victim – a Romanian male – did agree to enter the National Referral Mechanism, a platform to provide assistance to those who have been shown to be victims of Human Trafficking.
GLAA senior investigating officer Dave Powell said: “Hand car washes have been highlighted as a major area of concern by the GLAA and a number of our partner agencies. Sadly, that analysis is proving to be correct.
“We’ve carried out a number of car wash visits recently and it is rare that we find one that is without issues.
“As well as the potential victim that we removed from exploitation, we identified others who may well have been trafficked for labour exploitation but were reluctant to cooperate. We will continue to engage with these individuals and provide support to them.”
He added: “These latest findings are a real cause for concern. I would like to thank the police, council and HMRC for working with us on this occasion and am sure this will be the first of many similar days of action across the country.”
As well as the car wash sites, officers visited a three-bedroomed house that was home to eight Romanian workers. The property was considered to be overcrowded and in poor condition by the City Council’s Safer Housing team, which prevented it from being used as a dwelling by issuing a Prohibition Order under the Housing Act.
Council officers issued a similar legal notice for the office building on one of the car wash sites which was being used as living accommodation by one of its workers.
Issues were also uncovered relating to possible tax, VAT and National Minimum Wage offences and HMRC’s Hidden Economy team will now investigate.