Chelmsford restaurant has licence revoked amid claims of ‘modern slavery’

A Indian restaurant in Chelmsford has had its licence revoked after being accused of engaging in modern day slavery.

Chelmsford City Council’s licensing committee heard that in January an ambulance crew attended a call at Yasmin Indian Brasserie, in Baddow Road, after an employee said they were being paid £3 per hour and being made to work in unsanitary conditions, while experiencing verbal and physical abuse.

This led to a multi-agency raid in February which found four males working illegally who were arrested on immigration offences.

One was in the kitchen with an apron on and tried to flee, so had to be physically detained to stop him escaping.

Another was in the kitchen cooking, another was leaving the staff toilets and another in a waiter’s uniform had admitted he was working and hired by the restaurant.

He was the man who had been attended to three weeks earlier by ambulance crews.

Essex Police licensing officer William Moody, who submitted the evidence to the committee during an online meeting on Monday, May 4, also stated one of the offenders had been found working illegally after an immigration raid in 2014.

He said: “This suggests to us there had been illegal working at this premises from 2014 to 2020. To compound the already serious nature of the matter there have also been admissions by the workers they were being paid as little as £3 an hour and being kept in inappropriate conditions by the restaurant.

“Another stated to officers he was only receiving food for his work. This treatment clearly took its toll on one of the employees who required medical attention following an apparent breakdown.

“This was the ambulance visit three weeks earlier.

“In short this is an example of modern day slavery.”

Essex Police also stated that the suggested transfer of the licence to the head waiter should not influence the committee’s decision to revoke the licence.

Mr Moody added: “Immigration crime is to be taken especially seriously and revocation should be seriously considered even in the first instance.

“We would like to remind the sub committee this is not the first instance at the premises and the licence has been used in the commission of a very serious offence and the exploitation of vulnerable people.”

Marcus Croskell, representing Muhammed Haque, the licence holder, said the head waiter could be made the personal licence holder and the designated premises supervisor.

He also told the committee that systems at the premises for recording right to work statuses were being amended to prevent future issues and that all future documents would be retained correctly.

Mr Croskell asked the committee to question and consider the claims made by Essex Police of illegal working at the premises for a six-year period.

He argued that this was a “quantum leap” between two individual incidents in 2014 and 2020 and should not be taken into account after the individual identified in 2014 denied working at the premises.

He added the accusation of modern day slavery was an “inflammatory allegation” and could not be substantiated.

He said: “Yet it may surprise you there is no interview and no evidence of any investigation of modern day slavery by Essex Police. It wouldn’t survive a criminal trial because the evidence itself is extremely weak.”

A decision notice from the licencing committee said: “Each review application, including the steps (if any) considered appropriate to take in order to promote the licensing objectives, fell to be determined on its own facts.

“The illegal employment of these four individuals on the premises was, by itself, an extremely serious and disconcerting incident justifying revocation. In the view of the committee, the only appropriate step to take in this case was to revoke the licence.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter