PPS statement on the first ever prosecution for a forced labour offence in Northern Ireland under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act

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Belfast Crown Court has imposed a sentence of two years in custody, suspended for two years, on Osarobo Izekor (36) and his wife Precious Izekor (29) for requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

The court also made an order that the defendants pay £10,000 in compensation to the victim.

On 14 March 2022, the two Nigerian-born defendants had pleaded guilty to requiring the victim – who had been trafficked to the UK from Nigeria – to perform forced or compulsory labour in their Belfast home between 1 September 2016 and 30 September 2017.

Kirsten McKevitt, one of the Public Prosecution Service’s human trafficking specialist prosecutors, said: “This is the first ever prosecution for a forced labour offence in Northern Ireland under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015.

“The victim was a vulnerable adult who was taken advantage of and forced to perform compulsory labour for the Izekors in their home. She cooked, cleaned, provided childcare, and received no direct payment, while her family in Nigeria was being paid a very small sum for the work.

“Human trafficking specialist prosecutors in the PPS Serious Crime Unit worked closely with the PSNI Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit in this complex international case. This close and early engagement enabled us to build a strong case. The strength of the evidence, which included the victim’s account, banking records and electronic evidence, resulted in the couple pleading guilty, saving the victim the ordeal of a trial.

“I want to commend the bravery of the victim in coming forward. We understand how daunting it can be for victims of such offences to report their experiences, but I would appeal to anyone who thinks they may be a victim in a similar situation to please come forward and inform police. They will be treated sensitively and with dignity in the investigation of crimes of this nature.

“The case demonstrates the success of collaboration between the PPS and other statutory agencies – including the PSNI, the Home Office, the National Crime Agency, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the Department of Justice in combatting human trafficking and related types of exploitation. We will continue to work with partners to pursue offenders and protect victims.”