Police have taken action on a report that workers from overseas were being mistreated in Eastbourne.
Information from a member of public led to officers in the East Sussex Discovery team visiting the site of the currently derelict old T J Hughes store in Terminus Road, Eastbourne, with officers from the Health And Safety Executive (HSE), on Thursday 14 January.
Concerns had been raised in relation to the site, where a rubbish clearance company from London had been appointed to clear the building of fixtures and fittings.
Two men from Romania were found sleeping on the site in filthy conditions, with no hot water, and no shower facilities or protective equipment.
HSE issued an immediate Prohibition Notice on the building to prevent workers from sleeping there again, due to lack of fire precautions. A Notification of Contravention (NoC) was also issued as the site didn’t have any hot running water, no means of heating food or flushing toilets.
Police are continuing with an investigation into potential offences of labour exploitation under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and partner agencies are being consulted to help prevent any further such exploitation in relation to the site
Detective Sergeant Sophie McGarel said “Labour exploitation is a concern in East Sussex, as elsewhere in the country, with reports of poor accommodation and no protective equipment being issued to workers.
“In such cases, pay is often low and workers are expected to work for long hours. Discovery, with its partnership agencies, is responding to reports and using all available powers in order to seek to shut companies down where necessary.”
Discovery in East Sussex brings together local police officers, fire officers, Stop the Traffik Hastings, King’s Church and staff from Hastings and Rother Councils, DWP, HMRC, Home Office Immigration, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, and local charities, all with the aim of seeing victims of modern slavery rescued and supported, and perpetrators brought to justice.
For advice and information on spotting signs of modern slavery and how to report it see the Sussex Police website.