Seven arrested by detectives in trafficking probe

Seven arrested by detectives in trafficking probe

Seven people have been arrested by police targeting human trafficking and the purchase of sex.

A man, aged 57, was detained in the Belfast area on suspicion of trafficking for sexual exploitation, controlling prostitution, brothel keeping and money laundering.

A search was also carried out and a number of electronic devices were seized.

A 27-year-old woman has also been arrested in the Antrim area on suspicion of controlling prostitution, brothel keeping and money laundering.

Both suspects were taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite for questioning.

A further five men, aged 20, 33, 33, 36 and 52, have been arrested at locations across Northern Ireland on suspicion of paying for sexual services.

They have been taken into custody and are assisting detectives with their inquiries.

Detective Inspector Mark Bell said: "These arrests are part of a proactive investigation into human trafficking for sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland which has been ongoing for eight months.

"Sexual exploitation is often an unseen crime - often victims are transported to clients' properties so there may not be the obvious case of men coming and going to the one property.

"Furthermore, many victims can be afraid to speak out or may be being held captive."

He said some people who are subject to this kind of exploitation may not think of themselves as victims.

"They may be vulnerable and have been manipulated into having sex for money, often controlled and coerced into passing over some of the profits to another person who ultimately lines their pockets as a result of the exploitation.

"I want to appeal to victims to come forward to police. I want you to get the help and support that you need.

"Perhaps you are in this position but don't think that you are being exploited.

I'd urge you to have a think about the people around you and if there is anyone who is pushing you in a certain direction or financially benefiting from your activities, please make contact with the police.

Whilst the sale of sex in itself is not a crime in Northern Ireland, it is a criminal offence to purchase sex.

Since the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 legislation was enacted in 2015, police have made 33 arrests for human trafficking.

Over the last three years, they have also investigated 182 potential victims of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

The detective added: "Human trafficking is unacceptable.

"The criminals responsible prey on vulnerable people, violate their human rights and exploit them for their own selfish gains.

"Unlike drugs or firearms which are only bought or sold once, a victim can be sexually exploited over and over again, which could generate a continuous source of income for criminals."

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