'WALES must take a stand against modern slavery' is the Welsh Government's message as Gwent Police marks Anti-Slavery Week.

ROBBIE MANN finds out about the problem in Gwent and how Operation Imperial is helping to protect vulnerable adults.

GWENT Police along with three Welsh forces and partner agencies will today embark on a week’s worth of activities to raise awareness, identify offences and support victims in the lead up to International Anti-Slavery Day on Sunday, October 18.

The aim of the week is to break down the traditional views of slavery, offer support to victims and make Wales hostile to perpetrators of modern slavery.

Detective superintendent Paul Griffiths, senior investigating officer for Operation Imperial into the alleged abuse of vulnerable adults in Gwent and operational policing lead on modern slavery for Wales said that Anti-Slavery Week is important because it’s “imperative” to raise awareness so that more victims can come forward.

He told the South Wales Argus: “When you look at the offence of slavery, servitude and forced labour, these are horrendous crimes against people.

“They use and exploit individuals as a commodity and it’s important for us to raise awareness during Anti-Slavery Week so we can show what is going on in society, which we hope will encourage victims to come forward so we can work with them to build up their trust and confidence so that we can make sure they are safeguarded.”

Operation Imperial helped to bring Newport farm owner David Daniel Doran Jr to justice after forcing Darrell Simester to work for free over a 13-year period at Cariad Farm in Peterstone.

Doran Jr was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for the crime after forcing Mr Simester to work long hours at the farm, where he stayed in a rat-infested shed.

He did not have a fridge, and so kept milk in a bucket of water and only had the clothes he arrived in. He told the trial in September last year he would use washing up liquid to wash himself in an animal trough as he was not given soap.

Stephen Chapman, anti-slavery co-ordinator for the Welsh Government, said Wales needed to take a stand against modern day slavery, urging the public to take notice of the signs that scream forced labour.

He said: “Slavery has been hidden in plain sight, so we’ve embarked on a large awareness raising training programme across Wales and any training has to become consistent, so if you give people the skills and abilities to identify it, they’ve then got the confidence to report it."

Mr Chapman said that Anti-Slavery Week is all about raising awareness and says that in the past few years more and more reports are being referred to the anti-slavery teams.

He said: “Years ago, people would suffer in silence, but by raising awareness we’ve given people the ability to recognise and report it.

“We’ve found that since 2012 where we only had 34 cases referred, last year in 2014, that went up to 71 and already in the first six months of this year we’ve had well over 50 cases reported so it’s really about raising awareness.

“People need to look to see if the individuals look vulnerable and to notice their appearance, whether they’re in an environment where they’re wearing clothes that are ill-fitted, whether they’re showing signs of uncleanliness, that’s the type of forced labour examples that members of the public can look out for."

Mr Chapman added that vulnerable people often do not realise that they are victims and that they’re exploited.

“Sadly, what we’re looking at here is some of the most vulnerable people in society and there’s an organisation out there that’s been collecting these people and exploiting them for little money," he added.

Det Supt Griffiths thinks putting a deterrent in place could put a stop to forced labour.

He said: “I think whenever you increase sentences, you do put a deterrent element into some of the criminality, but it’s really important that we use all of our powers that are available.

“Some of those powers have just come through on the Modern Slavery Act this year, but we are continuing to work with other agencies so they can use their wider powers to deal with the organised criminality that is going on of which human trafficking is one part of it."

Mr Chapman said that the Welsh Government acknowledges "slavery harms a nation and certainly hurts people and its communities".

“One other thing that we’ve issued from our government programme is we want to make slavery hostile here in Wales and we also want to provide the survivors with the best possible support and I think that’s something that we do here in Wales differently to the rest of the UK,” he added.

International Anti-Slavery Day was created to raise awareness of modern slavery and to inspire people to eliminate it, which led to the Modern Slavery Act becoming law this year.

It is aimed at tackling human trafficking, forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.

If you suspect slavery is happening near you please report it to police on 101, or call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 012 1700.

If anyone has suspicions that someone they know may be a victim of slavery, some of the indications which could help to identify they are victims of trafficking include:

• Not having a passport or other means of identification

• They are withdrawn and refuse to talk to, or appear afraid to talk, a person in authority

• They are unable, or reluctant to give details of accommodation or other personal details

• They work in various locations

• Having limited freedom of movement

• They perform excessive housework chores and rarely leaves the residence

• They have low or no salary or are permanently deprived of a large part of their earnings by another person

• Being escorted whenever they go and or return from work and other activities

• They work long hours or have few, if any, days off

• They sleep where they work

• They have no privacy, sleeping in shared and over-crowded spaces

• Security measures are in place to keep them at the work place, for example locked doors and windows

• They are not dressed properly for the work they do, for example they don't have protective equipment or warm clothes