Three people have been jailed for a combined total of more than 25 years for trafficking and controlling prostitution offences committed in Bristol.
Jiri Mizer, 33, of no fixed address, and Viera Sulcova, 39, of Blenheim Road in Gloucester, were convicted of offences following a trial at Bristol Crown Court.
Mizer was found guilty of two counts of trafficking people into/within the UK for sexual exploitation, three counts of controlling prostitution for gain and one count of conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law – relating to a sham marriage. He was jailed for eight-and-half years.
Sulcova was found guilty of three counts of trafficking people into/within the UK for sexual exploitation, three counts of controlling prostitution for gain and one count of conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law. She was jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
A third man – 40-year-old Vojtech Paloc – failed to attend the trial and was convicted in his absence of two counts of trafficking people into the UK for sexual exploitation, two counts of controlling prostitution for gain and one count of conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law. He was given a nine-and-a-half year jail term.
As a result of partnership working with the National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service and the Czech authorities, Paloc was arrested in Liberec in the Czech Republic on Wednesday morning (30/11) and extradition procedures are now under way.
The trafficking offences relate to two women being transported from the Czech Republic and forced into becoming sex workers in east Bristol. A third woman was trafficked within the UK. One of the three women was also coerced into a sham marriage when she refused to continue as a sex worker.
Our investigation started in 2011 when officers from our Vice team became aware of a number of women from the Czech Republic working as sex workers, linked to addresses in St Werburghs and Easton.
T/DC Dale Morgan, of Bristol Investigations and formerly of the Vice team, said: “The offences resulting from this investigation relate to three victims, who were all in the early twenties at the time.
“The three women were forced into on-street and off-street sex work in east Bristol, with sexual services also advertised online.
“The victims felt trapped and utterly dependant on Mizer, Sulcova and Paloc who treated them as commodities. Two of them were brought over to the UK from Prague – inspired by promises of a better life.
“Tragically there was no better life on the horizon. The sole intention of these traffickers was to exploit women in order to make money and their greed knew no bounds.
“One of the victims was forced to marry a man so he could remain in the UK. She was told this was the only way she would be “free”.
“The sham marriage was due to take place in Cardiff in May 2012 but didn’t go ahead due to suspicions raised by the registrar. The victim later told a social worker she’d been forced to enter into the sham marriage.
“We care about the safety and welfare of sex workers and are committed to ensuring those who exploit and abuse them are brought to justice.
“It took immense courage for the victims to support our inquiry and I hope these convictions will give other victims the strength and belief to come forward.”
Force lead Ch Insp Mark Edgington said: “Trafficking and modern slavery offences are difficult to identify and even more difficult to prove but we’re committed to ensuring we achieve successful prosecutions whenever possible.
“We’ve worked closely with the charity Unseen throughout and they’ve provided invaluable support to us and the victims in this case.
“These crimes are simply appalling. It’s sickening to think anyone could treat another human being in this degrading way.
“Sadly, these offences are all too often hidden from view, so it’s vitally important for our local communities to be our eyes and ears.
“Slavery could be happening in your neighbourhood or at a local business near you. Do you suspect someone is being exploited? Are you suspicious about any activities in your street? If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.”
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “This case is shocking by any standards and highlights that modern slavery is happening here in Avon and Somerset. That is why it is more important than ever that we continue to work together to tackle these crimes.
“Tackling modern slavery and sexual exploitation is part of my priority of protecting the most vulnerable from harm, in my new Police and Crime Plan.
“Working closely with Unseen and other partners, I want the Police to continue focusing on this terrible crime, supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice.”
Kate Garbers, managing director of charity Unseen, said: “Our staff were able to support the victims in this case and ensure they were given the help and support they needed following the terrible crimes committed against them.
“We know modern slavery is an issue and crime that the Force and PCC take seriously and the determination to correctly support survivors and prosecute perpetrators is echoed across the South West.
“Unseen has recently launched the UK Modern Slavery Helpline. If you’re concerned for someone or are experiencing slavery please call 08000 121 700 for confidential advice, or you can text 21700, or visit www.modernslaveryhelpline.org
Posted on Friday 2nd December 2016