Students shine a spotlight on modern-day slavery

Awards made possible thanks to funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Dame Vera Baird’s Community Fund

Published on 02 May 2018

Modern-day slavery is the focus of a series of powerful short films created by students at the University of Sunderland aimed at raising awareness of this hidden crime.

Northumbria Police and SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) were looking at ways to raise awareness and support people who find themselves the victims of slavery, which still exists affecting men, women and children, across every level of society.

Following the success of collaborative projects over the last five years alongside the University of Sunderland students, including work which has addressed themes including the capacity to consent, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and cyber-crime, Northumbria Police was keen to work alongside the university once again to promote awareness surrounding modern slavery.

Four short films were sensitively produced by Final Year students from the Drama and Film Production degree courses, who researched, scripted, devised, filmed and edited all of the work themselves, then showcased their work during an awards ceremony at the David Puttnam Media Centre, Sir Tom Cowie Campus, at St Peter’s.

The brief was to capture all facets of this crime and devise a piece of drama suitable for use as an awareness DVD in order to be used as an educational or training tool for the Police, and to promote awareness of this issue further afield. Specialist staff from SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) were involved in overseeing the content for accuracy.

The event was made possible thanks to funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Dame Vera Baird’s Community Fund. All five entries were judged by a panel from Northumbria Police.

The winning entry ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, showed the devastating impact that slavery has on a group of victims' lives.

Adelle Hulsmeier, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Performing Arts at the University of Sunderland, said: “Every year we are continuously impressed with the mature and dedicated way in which our students handle such massively challenging issues. This year is no exception and we’ve had some incredible professionally produced films.

“This is such a tangible and vocational project, based on hard-hitting real-life issues, produced to industry standards for a real-live brief. The students get very excited to become involved in the Northumbria Police project, as it’s work that goes beyond assessment and can be promoted far and wide, to any future employer.

“Congratulations to all our students for their hard work and to those staff who were there to advise and support them.”

Cameron Bruce, Media Production student and Director of the winning film ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, says: “This was a great opportunity for us to not only experience doing work for an external university client but also gave us the chance to tackle some really difficult and prevalent issues we are facing today.

“Though I had previous knowledge of the problem, I was still shocked that in 2018 modern day slavery is such a huge issue and all the events depicted in each film happen on a daily basis. I am extremely proud of our team and think all the students from the course have made exceptional films which will be great vehicles to raise awareness of this issue. Thanks go to Northumbria Police and the University for giving us this opportunity and for recognising the films in the way they did.”

Tackling modern day slavery and human trafficking is a high priority for Northumbria Police and forms part of Dame Vera Baird’s Policing Plan, working together with police and partners to tackle this issue and raise awareness of the scale of the problem that affects areas across the UK, including the North East.

Detective Chief Inspector Claire Wheatley, of Northumbria Police’s Safeguarding Department, has said that the force will continue to do all they can to safeguard victims.

She said: “Safeguarding vulnerable people is a key priority for us and we are committed to ensuring Modern day slavery is identified and investigated effectively.

“Modern Day Slavery is a hidden crime and can happen anywhere, in all sections of the community and is a crime that looks to exploit vulnerable people in truly appalling ways and control them through violence and threatening behaviour.

“Our officers work closely with partners to help protect those who may be vulnerable and disrupt these networks. We also rely on the vigilance of people in our local communities to report any suspicious behaviour to us.”

Dame Vera Baird said: “Modern Day Slavery is a very serious and topical issue. It can affect anyone and the impact it has on victims is devastating. It is my hope that those who are affected by modern-day slavery feel confident that they will receive the best possible support and service from Northumbria Police.

“Victims can often feel intimidated, isolated and live in fear. We have a responsibility to those victims to work together with partners to identify and tackle this type of crime and do everything within our power to safeguard them and other vulnerable people.”

All films were screened before an audience of specially invited guests, including delegates from Northumbria Police and SARC. There were speeches from ITV’s News Correspondent Alastair Stewart OBE, who praised the students’ professionalism and creative efforts. Ruth Durham, Director of Policy Performance and Scrutiny at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria and Northumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Bacon both gave talks during the evening.