Shop owner broke Gangmasters Licensing Act
A shopkeeper has admitted acting as an illegal gangmaster after he breached a law designed to protect agency workers.
Kuldip Singh, 46, of Rivelin Park, Kingswood, was given a suspended prison sentence for supplying workers without holding a Gangmasters Licence, in the first case of its kind in the country.
BROKE LAW: Kuldip Singh arriving at Hull Crown Court.
The licence is designed to protect agricultural workers and was introduced in 2004 as part of the Gangmasters Licensing Act (GLA) following the Morecombe Bay cockling disaster, which claimed the lives of 21 Chinese labourers.
It became an offence to supply agricultural workers without holding a licence when the act came into force in October 2006.
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Hull Crown Court heard Mr Singh had provided workers to three East Riding companies through his two firms -Diamond Employment Agency and Opiecare Ltd between 2004 and 2008.
Mr Singh had applied for a licence in September 2006, but his application was refused.
However, he continued to supply workers to K Fresh, in Withernsea, Raventhorpe Nurseries, in Cherry Burton and Glen Avon Growers, in Cottingham.
When a manager at one of the firms asked to see his licence, Mr Singh suggested the firm should transfer the contract to Zuber Mohammed, a licensed gangmaster in Birmingham.
However, the arrangement was a sham as Mr Singh in fact continued to supply the same workers to the company.
The offences came to light during routine checks carried out by the North Yorkshire and Humber Immigration Crime Team.
Mr Singh, who runs the Village Convenience Store in Sutton, pleaded guilty to two offences under the GLA.
He also admitted a further two offences of employing people subject to immigration control, as the court heard he had hired two illegal immigrants.
Mr Mohammed also admitted one offence under the GLA.
Judge John Swanson, sentencing the pair, said he would have been more harshly punished if there had been any evidence to suggest his workers had been exploited in any way.
"The relevant legislation was necessitated by a terrible tragedy," he said. "A ruthless gangmaster took advantage of the vulnerability of a number of illegal immigrants and put them in a position of great danger.
"As a result a large number of lives were lost.
"If I thought that there had been any exploitation of your workforce, or harm done to any of the customers, there would have been lengthy prison sentences and they would not have been suspended."
Mr Singh was given a sentence of six months, suspended for two years.
There will be a proceeds of crime hearing in May next year to seize any cash Mr Singh made from his illegal activity.
Mr Mohammed was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for two years.