By Richard Percival and Trevor Bevins

A borough councillor has told how a young eastern European woman was brought to the area against her will – and only released to return home after the intervention of the authorities.

Cllr Paul Kimber said he became involved in the later stages of the case two months ago when the woman was noticed in his Underhill ward on Portland.

“She had not come over under her own will and was not being supported, yet she had been promised work and housing,” he told a borough council meeting.

Mr Kimber told the story to persuade the council to back the Charter against Modern Slavery.

He said that 24 councils had already done so and encouraged the borough council to follow their example.

He said 14,000 cases of slavery had been reported across the country last year.

“It sends out a powerful message about our values,” he said.

But his plea was put out back for further investigation by the borough’s policy committee after Mayor Cllr Gill Taylor said that to adopt it might have legal implications for the council, which ought to be investigated first.

Across Dorset, figures published by the National Crime Agency (NCA) showed that there were 48 reports of slavery in the county with most reports coming from outside agencies including the Salvation Army, UK Visas and Immigration, Border Force, local councils and children’s charity Barnardo’s and seven coming from Dorset Police.

Meanwhile, across the UK in 2017, as part of a number of weeks of action on modern slavery, UK law enforcement arrested more than 320 suspected offenders and identified more than 560 potential victims.

Cllr Kimber told the Echo that he was “shocked” by the figures.

He stressed that the issue needed to be looked into further to understand why modern slavery was happening.

Detective Chief Inspector Gavin Dudfield from Dorset Police and the Dorset Anti-Slavery Partnership, added: “Modern slavery happens to some of the most vulnerable people in society, who may not even realise they are being exploited.

“We need members of the public to ensure they report any concerns they have around someone’s working or living conditions.”

Cllr Kimber’s motion comes at the same time as the Home Office published its costs of modern slavery report which estimates that the crime is costing the UK around £4.3bn every year.

Each instance of the crime costs around £330,000, including the cost of support, lost earnings and law enforcement.

Victoria Atkins MP, the crime minister, said that the country was a world leader in the fight against modern slavery through ground-breaking laws and a strict law enforcement approach.

She added: “As this awful crime is evolving, it is our responsibility as citizens, businesses and governments to do all we can to stop exploitation.”

Matt Horne, deputy director general of the National Crime Agency, added: “There are now over six hundred active operations targeting those involved in modern slavery and human trafficking. But there is more to do.

“Criminal networks are using the internet. Adult services websites are a key enabler of exploitation, and we’re working with the tech companies, but also we need make people aware the services advertised on them are often exploiting victims.”