London

Pair jailed for forcing six children to beg in London

The man with two of the children
Image caption The pair were arrested in the house they shared with the children

A man and a woman from Romania have each been jailed for 30 months for forcing six children to beg in London.

The man, 36, and woman, 33, pleaded guilty to child neglect at Reading Crown Court. The man also admitted four counts of fraud and money-laundering.

The children were forced to beg on the streets for up to 12 hours a day, not sent to school and had no access to doctors. Some had cigarette burn marks.

The pair trafficked the children to the UK, Metropolitan (Met) Police said.

The couple, who worked for a gang based in Romania, were arrested in the house they shared with the children in Berkshire, in October 2009 following months of surveillance as part of Operation Golf.

The surveillance on the pair began after the Met identified that one of about 1,000 children trafficked by a gang in the south-eastern town of Tanderei, Romania, was living in the UK with the couple.

'Children physically abused'

The Met said the Romanian gang involved in this case thought each child could earn about £100,000 a year by begging or stealing.

The woman would escort the children and directed their operations in various locations, including Southall, Westminster and Wembley, and Luton.

Ch Insp Colin Carswell, from Operation Golf, said: "This was a case of prolonged and premeditated abuse.

"They (the children) were told they could not get school places while in reality the adults concerned had not enrolled them, they were denied access to healthcare and, once removed from the couple, several of the children were found to have scars consistent with cigarette or cigar burns.

"Another of the children needed seven tooth extractions.

"We believe that this man and woman were in league with a Romanian organised criminal network in order to exploit and abuse these children, that this gang facilitated movement of them throughout Europe and that the profits generated by the children were significant with a proportion finding its way back to Romania to help fund lavish lifestyles for the gangsters."

The man admitted to one count of child neglect relating to failing to educate the children, four counts of fraud, including benefit fraud, and one count of money laundering.

He was ordered to serve a minimum of 15 months. A second charge of child neglect relating to begging will lie on file.

The woman admitted to one count of child neglect for failing to educate the children and another count of child neglect relating to exploiting them for begging. She was also ordered to serve a minimum of 15 months.

Three further charges relating to trafficking seven children into the UK will lie on file.

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