Last updated at 12:13 AM on 12th February 2011
A detective whose work may have saved the lives of seven prostitutes trafficked into Britain was allegedly told by her boss: ‘I’m not interested in trafficking. I am interested in burglaries.’
Detective Constable Jennifer Coleman, 33, claims senior officers tried to ‘conceal’ the scale of the trafficking because they feared a major investigation would tie up resources and leave them unable to meet crime detection targets.
DC Coleman told an employment tribunal that colleagues put the lives of many women in danger when they refused to raise the status of a human trafficking case she was leading to a nationwide level.
The officer made the claims as she sued South Wales Police for discrimination under whistleblower laws. It is understood she is seeking a total of £30,000 for loss of earnings and hurt feelings.
The tribunal in Cardiff heard that DC Coleman was seconded to a national serious organised crime task force in January 2006 to join an investigation into the trafficking of women from Eastern Europe to work as prostitutes in Britain.
She was the officer in charge of two trafficking cases and the point of contact for two victims of a crime ring which had brought them to the UK and set them to work as prostitutes at a brothel in Cardiff.
In a statement, DC Coleman said she had ‘received positive feedback’ for her work, but after nearly a year with the task force she was transferred back to CID.
She claimed her CID colleagues treated her trafficking work with ‘disdain’ and that her new ‘line manager’, Detective Sergeant Chris Cullen, ‘did not appreciate’ that she still had work to do on her human trafficking cases.
DC Coleman complained to Detective Inspector Gary Osborne that she felt ‘bullied’ and that this was impacting on her health.
On New Year’s Eve 2006 she received a call from the madam of a Cardiff brothel in ‘a hysterical state’ telling her that a trafficked woman was working as a prostitute at her premises and that the victim’s pimp was ‘bashing at the door’.
The victim told police she had been trafficked from her home in Eastern Europe to Sheffield, then to Cardiff.
The next day the victim said seven more women were being held in a brothel in Sheffield and forced into prostitution. DC Coleman made contact with a detective at South Yorkshire Police.
‘He explained that one of the names I had given had been at the centre of a very large investigation into human trafficking,’ she said.
‘The information I passed on saved the lives of seven females and has led to the arrest of national and international targets.’
DC Coleman, who still works as a detective for South Wales Police, said she knew her career would be finished as a result of passing information to South Yorkshire Police.
She added: ‘I believe that South Wales Police did not want me to pass the intelligence on as it would have led to an expensive joint force investigation. It would have impacted on our detection rates.’
DC Coleman said she was told by DI Osborne not to deal with trafficking cases any more, but in March 2007 she received a message from a contact saying he had ‘urgent information about trafficked females in Cardiff needing assistance’.
She wrote the details on a piece of paper and handed it to DS Cullen, saying: ‘I am aware I am not to deal with any human trafficking, therefore can someone deal with this.’
DC Coleman claims he took the piece of paper from her, screwed it up and said: ‘I’m not interested in trafficking. I am interested in burglaries.’ He then walked off.
She was accused by South Wales Police’s barrister, Jonathan Walters, of being ‘a plausible liar’.
The hearing continues.