Cannabis farms are a modern slavery ‘blind spot’ for UK police, study suggests

Migrants arrested for tending plants in the flats, houses and attics where cannabis is grown in bulk are often victims of trafficking and “debt bondage” – yet many are not recognised as such by police, according to a new study.

Big questions remain about how the criminal justice system should ethically manage modern slavery victims who are also illegal immigrants involved in illegal activity

Heather Strang

Research from Cambridge criminologists suggests that those charged with drug cultivation have often been forced into illegal work as a condition of debt to criminal gangs for smuggling them into the UK.

The researchers, including a Detective Inspector who completed a Masters at Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology, argue that police take too narrow a view of modern slavery when it comes to “growers” arrested during cannabis farm raids.

While growers – often Vietnamese nationals – are not always imprisoned within farms, many work under threat of extreme violence towards themselves or family back home, with little in the way of language or contacts in the UK.

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