A COUPLE who were the subject of a landmark conviction in Northern Ireland for requiring a person to perform forced labour have been spared jail.
Osarobo (John) Izekor, 36, and his wife Precious Izekor, 29, now of Lisburn, pleaded guilty in March 2022 to requiring the victim to perform forced or compulsory labour in their Belfast home between September 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017.
Their prosecution was the first ever for a forced labour offence in Northern Ireland under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015.
At Belfast Crown Court on Monday, the pair were each sentenced to two years in custody, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay their victim £10,000 in compensation.
The victim, described by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) as a ‘vulnerable adult’ trafficked from Nigeria, was required to cook, clean and care for the couple's three children for more than 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
In return, she received no direct payment — instead, the Izekors sent her family in Nigeria just £20 a month.
Detective Inspector Rachel Miskelly of the PSNI revealed how the Izekors would control their victim by using mendacious threats of deportation.
"The couple had forced a vulnerable woman, who had been trafficked from Nigeria to the UK, to act as their live-in domestic servant," said DC Miskelly.
"The forced labour took place in their Belfast home over a nine-month period from late 2016 to 2017.
"The victim was required to carry out all housework and childcare, working seven days a week and in excess of 14 hours per day.
"John and Precious Izekor exerted their control by threatening the victim she would be deported — despite her being in the country legally.
"And, in return for her efforts, a meagre £20 per month was sent to her family in Nigeria. She was never paid directly.
"Despite claims that the victim was treated like a member of the family, there were no acts of kindness or compassion.
"She was controlled and treated appallingly.
"Nothing can ever undo the way in which this woman was taken advantage of."
Kirsten McKevitt, a human trafficking specialist prosecutor with the PPS, paid tribute to the bravery of the victim.
"The strength of the evidence, which included the victim's account, banking records and electronic evidence, resulted in the couple pleading guilty, saving the victim the ordeal of a trial," said McKevitt.
"I want to commend the bravery of the victim in coming forward.
"We understand how daunting it can be for victims of such offences to report their experiences, but I would appeal to anyone who thinks they may be a victim in a similar situation to please come forward and inform police.
"They will be treated sensitively and with dignity in the investigation of crimes of this nature."