Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit have acknowledged the sentences handed down to a husband and wife at Belfast Crown Court today, Monday 27 June.

John and Precious Izekor had previously pleaded guilty to requiring a person to perform forced labour, resulting in the first ever conviction of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The investigation was assisted by colleagues from the National Crime Agency, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and prosecutors from the Public Prosecution Service.  

John Izekor, aged 36 and Precious Izekor, aged 28, have both been sentenced to two years, suspended for two years and ordered to pay their victim £10,000 in compensation.

Detective Inspector Rachel Miskelly said: “The couple had forced a vulnerable woman, who had been trafficked from Nigeria to the UK, to act as their live-in domestic servant.

“The forced labour took place in their Belfast home over a nine-month period from late 2016 to 2017.

“The victim was required to carry out all housework and childcare, working seven days a week and in excess of 14 hours per day. 

“John and Precious Izekor exerted their control by threatening the victim she would be deported – despite her being in the country legally.  And, in return for her efforts, a meagre £20 per month was sent to her family in Nigeria. She was never paid directly.

"Despite claims that the victim was treated like a member of the family, there were no acts of kindness or compassion. She was controlled and treated appallingly.

“Nothing can ever undo the way in which this woman was taken advantage of. 

“I can only hope that the outcome of this investigation, which is a milestone, might encourage anyone who has been abused, or is being abused, to come forward.  If you have been exploited please speak to us. 

“Likewise, if you have concerns that someone is being controlled in such a way, please do the right thing and speak up.  Your call could change a lifetime of abuse.  Contact us with any information or suspicions on 101. If it’s an emergency call 999; or call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 012 1700.”

Rob Richardson, Head of the NCA’s Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking Unit, added: “This is a landmark case and I welcome this outcome. We know from experience how complex these cases can be to investigate, but the NCA worked closely with our PSNI partners to ensure crucial evidence from the victim and from Nigeria was secured.

“This demonstrated how she was exploited over a nine-month period and forced to live in appalling circumstances. I can only commend the victim’s bravery for speaking out against her abusers.

“The case also reinforces how modern slavery is a crime that often happens in plain sight. There could be victims of exploitation working in domestic servitude or forced labour in your street or neighbourhood. I’d appeal to anyone that if they suspect someone to be a victim, please contact the 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline or your local police. Your information could save a life.”

Officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit work closely with a range of partners. They include the Department of Justice, An Garda Síochána, National Crime Agency, Public Prosecution Service, and other agencies represented on the Organised Crime Task Force.  Many local charities also play a vital role in assisting and supporting victims to rebuild their lives.