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Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority teams with Cellebrite to combat labour exploitation

UK’s modern slavery watchdog agency brings exploiters of vulnerable workers to justice using Digital Intelligence solutions.

Cellebrite, a global leader in Digital Intelligence (DI) solutions for the public and private sectors, announced a closed case with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) which brought justice to individuals and businesses that force manual labour.


When the agency expanded its mission to cover the entire labour market and strengthened its enforcement powers, a digital forensics lab of their own became a must. To launch their lab, GLAA investigative officers, Richard Shrimpton and Tom Frost, chose Cellebrite mobile forensics collect and review solutions for digital data examination, evidence gathering, and digital data collection.


The new digital forensics lab highlighted GLAA’s digital transformation in a case that went to court in mid-2022. In 2018, a GLAA investigator received a call from a licensed labour provider concerned about a person working at a factory in Wales. The person, who was from Eastern Europe, told GLAA’s southwestern investigators that work was promised in a local bakery, along with suitable housing.


Instead, the exploiter placed the victim with exploiters who prevented showers, made threats to the victim, and charged double the rent initially quoted. When the victim began working in the factory, the £500 weekly salary was paid almost entirely into an account run by the exploiters, leaving the victim with an occasional £20 to live on.


Using Cellebrite’s collect & review solutions, the investigators found photos of the victim on the exploiters’ phones, along with images of the victim’s passport. The images would have been used to open bank accounts in the victim’s name that were controlled by the exploiters. Investigators also found evidence that one of the exploiters was using the victim’s email address and pretending to be the victim.


The three exploiters were found guilty of modern slavery offenses in August 2022. The exploiters were convicted of modern slavery offences following a four-week trial at Newport Crown Court in July and August this year, with sentences of five years, four years, and 20 months, respectively.


“Cellebrite is perfect for these scenarios,” Shrimpton says. “We work with a lot of vulnerable people and potential victims – we want to look at their devices, but we don’t want to take their phones away from them. We can even go to a local police station and ask for a room where we can do the extraction.”


Frost added, “The digital forensics department has grown bigger than anyone expected it would, and it’s just going to get bigger as we see more cases of forced labour.”


The good news is that by having its own lab, the benefits to GLAA will only increase as the department grows.


“We used to have cases that closed down because we just didn’t have the information that we needed to make a case,” Shrimpton says. “Now, for every conviction in every court case we’ve had since we opened our lab, digital forensics has played a big part in the prosecution.”



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