Northern Ireland news

'Forced labour' case couple to be sentenced later this month

Precious Izekor and her husband John at Belfast Crown Court where they appeared in the dock in the first ever forced labour 'slavery' case to be tried in Northern Ireland. Picture by Alan Lewis

A COUPLE who made a vulnerable Nigerian woman 'perform forced labour' in their east Belfast home will be sentenced for the slavery offence later this month.

Osarobo 'John' Izekor (36) and his 29-year old wife Precious Izekor will also have to pay their victim £10,000 in compensation.

The husband and wife, with an address at Ashmount Gardens in Lisburn, admitted that on dates between September 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017 they 'required another person to perform forced or compulsory labour.'

Whilst the victim was forced to carry out domestic duties, a majority of the criminality by the Izekors was unpaid childcare.

The case, which was heard at Belfast Crown Court, is one of the first prosecutions under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act (NI) 2015.

The couple admitted keeping the Nigerian woman as a domestic slave in their then Castlereagh Place home in Belfast for a ten-month period.

Crown barrister Charles MacCreanor said the woman - who could not read or write - arrived in Northern Ireland in 2011 and worked as a nanny for John Izekor's sister.

When John Izekor's sister returned to Nigeria in 2016, she moved into Castlereagh Place and was told money would be sent back to her family for any work she undertook.

During the ten-month period of offending, the woman had her own room and was given food and clothes - but was not paid any money.

In addition, the Izekors had possession of her passport and other documents, which she didn't have access to.

Despite her request for her documents, they were not handed over and she left the Izekors and went to stay with a friend who felt she was being exploited and accompanied her to the Home Office.

When a Home Office official called at the Izekors home Mrs Izekors denied knowing her.

An investigation was launched and during police interview, John Izekor initially denied any wrong-doing and made the case they were letting the women stay in their home and were helping her.

In her interview, Mr Izekors told officers the woman was a family friend and was never asked to do any form of work or labour.

Defence barrister Barry Gibson, representing John Ikezor, spoke of Izekor's university education, extensive work history and his clear criminal record.

Precious Izekor's barrister Gavan Duffy QC revealed there was a former good relationship between the two women.

Judge Richard Greene QC however spoke of the complexities of the case and said he wanted to consider several issues before passing sentence on June 27.

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