Suspended sentence for Fenland gangmaster
Peterborough Magistrates’ Court was told that in one instance, a Latvian worker received just £151 for five 10 hour days – which works out at less than half the National Minimum wage.
In another example cited, a worker was employed by Slender Contracting Ltd, of March, for 20 hours over two days, but after deductions were made from his pay packet he was shown to be in debt.
Despite being licensed, Martyn Slender, of Steeple View, March, admitted on Friday that he had employed the services of unlicensed labour providers in contravention of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act.
The 45-year-old, who committed the offence while managing director of Slender Contracting Ltd, was given a 12-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months and was also ordered to perform 200 hours of unpaid work.
The court heard Slender admit he had used two unlicensed providers to provide his company with workers who were then set on harvesting vegetable crops.
Slender also confirmed he deliberately destroyed a number of payslips to enable him to underpay some of his employees.
One Latvian worker, for example, received £60 a week less than some of his Lithuanian colleagues.
GLA chief executive Paul Broadbent said, “This is the latest example of the GLA working with other agencies to track down and tackle those intent on exploiting vulnerable people.
“Ultimately, Slender knew what he was doing was wrong but he decided the substantial additional profit he could make by unlawfully underpaying his workers, was too much to resist.
“As a result of his greed, he has lost his business, suffered the shame of being publicly exposed as a criminal and must work unpaid for a significant period as a result of his actions.”
The accused was one of nine people arrested in a series of dawn raids in the March and Wisbech area on 15 October last year. The large-scale operation involved around 300 officers in total from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, Cambridgeshire Police and the National Crime Agency.
All the above agencies joined forces for Operation Endeavour - the culmination of months of investigative work carried out by the GLA and the police into organised crime rings operating in the Fens.
Around 80 workers were taken to a reception centre on the day of the operation and 35 entered the National referral Mechanism after being officially recognised as victims of human trafficking.
The licence of Slender Contracting was immediately suspended. At the time, the business had been supplying agricultural workers to harvest vegetable crops on a Fenland farm but it has now ceased trading.
Presiding District Judge Ken Sheraton told the court that Slender’s offences were so serious they warranted a custodial sentence. However, he added that as he was a man of previous good character and had entered an early guilty plea he would suspend the sentence for 12 months.