Last Night's TV - The Hunt for Britain's Sex Traffickers, Channel 4; The Bill, ITV1

Red light that spells danger

We've seen this a good few times before on television – a room-full of coppers pulling on their stab-vests and preparing for a raid. I'm guessing that, statistically speaking, dramatised versions of this overture to action far outweigh the documentary ones but fiction and reality were going head-to-head last night, with the very last episode of
The Bill going out on ITV1 at the same time as Channel 4 was giving us a film about Operation Pentameter 2, a police attempt to crack down on sex trafficking in Britain.
The Hunt for Britain's Sex Traffickers began in Luton, a town that can apparently boast over 30 brothels, many of them staffed by young women who are effectively being held in debt-slavery. The Albanian woman discovered after one of the raids we saw here was fairly typical. She'd fled a forced marriage in Albania because of her husband's violence and unluckily rebounded into the arms of Eddy, a man who promised protection but then stole her passport and forced her into prostitution. Another hoped to earn money as a cleaner in England, but discovered too late that the Estonian employment website that took her money was a cover for a sex-trafficking gang, and that they weren't going to give her a choice about how to pay it back.

The bulk of the film concentrated on a stake-out and raid in Cheltenham, targeting eight addresses that had been identified as connected to the sex trade. The prostitutes, the officer in charge told his team, were to be treated with dignity and accorded victim status. But there seemed to be some confusion about who exactly society holds responsible for victimising them. The brothel owners and managers were squarely in the frame, obviously, but the men who actually make the industry pay, the customers, seemed to be treated far more gently. One well-dressed man, so intent on executive relief that he rang on a brothel door even though it was surrounded by police officers, was taken aside for a quiet word: "We can be discreet about this because we're all men and that's the type of thing we like," said the policeman, "but I would like a statement from you just to say... if you are using it as a brothel that's fine... but how you make contact, how much you pay and so on." Well, not all men like that type of thing and since April of this year it hasn't necessarily been fine either – it's an offence to have sex with a woman who's been trafficked, even if you're unaware of the fact. The flabby, florid-faced man caught with his trousers down in one raid presumably got away with a really nasty fright and nothing more, but he was just as much part of the exploitation as the bullying thugs who'd put a young woman at his disposal. "I envy the dogs in this country," said another woman, "people love them and look after them." She'd been sold on by her importers for £30,000 – a measure of how much she was expected to earn – and her volition had been taken from her with threats of violence. At the very least anyone using her services was guilty of trafficking in stolen goods.

The Bill ended not with a fiery bang (they've done that before) but not with a whimper either, unless you count the weepy moment Simon Rouse had while rehearsing his last big speech as Sun Hill's Superintendent, a backstage moment we saw courtesy of Farewell The Bill. What they went out on was a three-minute unbroken take, wandering through the corridors and out into the car park and passing every member of the cast as it went. Even the producers got in on the act, sitting in at the final press conference as reporters. "I'm proud of my team and what they do" were the lines that made Rouse's voice quiver. They had good reason to be proud of their parting shot.

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable