Page last updated at 00:11 GMT, Monday, 5 May 2008 01:11 UK

Targeting internal trafficking

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On the set of the educational film

By Ben Ando
Crime reporter, BBC News

The young man is dark and good looking; the girl strikingly beautiful.

They are talking, joking and sharing a meal in a city centre cafe.

But this is no teenage date.

Outside on the pavement a large film camera is recording, while out-of-shot riggers, set assistants and the director look on.

The BBC has been invited to the set of a film sponsored by the Home Office and other organisations, including the UK Human Trafficking Centre and Streetreach - a support group for prostitutes.

When completed, the film will be shown in schools across Britain to warn youngsters about the recently identified problem of "internal trafficking" in which British schoolgirls - some as young as 12 - are seduced by older teenage boys who then pass them on into prostitution.

Writer and director Virginia Heath says she threaded together real events into a fictional storyline.

"I did a lot of research. Much of the script comes out of stories told to me directly by some of the girls, or by those who have been looking after them."

The cafe scene depicts the male character, Raz, buying a meal for Jade - the girl at the centre of the story.

'Turning point'

"The whole process of enticement can be exciting for the girl - I wanted to depict that. She's excited because she's exploring new things," adds Virginia.

Later, we move to a student house that has been taken over by the film crew to film some of the interior shots.

This, explains Virginia, is where Jade realises things aren't what they seem with Raz: "It's a crucial turning point in the film. Raz asks Jade to 'Do something nice to my friend.' Jade knows it isn't right but she goes along with it."

What Jade doesn't know is that her boyfriend owes money for drugs, and she is his way of paying off his debt.

As the camera tracks them, Raz leads Jade up the stairs of the dingy house. They pause and, as an older man waits in an adjacent bedroom, he tells the confused Jade what's expected.

This is happening - we're not saying it's happening on every street corner, but it is happening
Det Ch Supt Nick Kinsella

The practice of internal trafficking first became known to the authorities during Operation Pentameter 1 - the nationwide police investigation into human trafficking that took place two years ago.

Pentameter 1 led to the creation of the UK Human Trafficking Centre.

Its head, Det Ch Supt Nick Kinsella, is one of those behind the film.

He said: "This is happening. We're not saying it's happening on every street corner, but it is happening. We wanted to do something for both youngsters and their families so they'd know what's going on and could take reasonable precautions."

Jade is being played by Juliet Aaltonen. During a break in shooting, she explains what she makes of her character: "Jade is fiery but also downtrodden and unhappy. She gets led astray before she actually realises what's happening."

Jay Khan, who will shortly be seen in an episode of the BBC's "Waking the Dead", plays the part of Raz, the boyfriend who becomes a pimp.

Education pack

"Raz is a 20-year-old Middle Eastern guy" explains Sheffield-born Jay.

"He gets into a bad situation - he owes money for drugs that he can't pay. So the gang say to him 'here's a car, here's some money, go and find a girl'."

Virginia says the character of Raz is important because he had to be attractive and interesting to Jade.

"I wanted to make him quite appealing - especially in the early stages. He's not a monster, but he does find himself becoming a trafficker and doing things he shouldn't."

Internal trafficking prosecutions can be hard to bring to court because often the girls will not give evidence against their pimp boyfriends - either out of fear or misplaced loyalty.

The authorities admit they also do not have a complete idea of the scale of the problem - with cases reported in Sheffield, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Blackburn, Keighley and numerous other areas.

When completed, the film will form part of an education pack to be used in schools nationwide and, it is hoped, to teach youngsters not just how to avoid being drawn in, but also what to do to assist those who have.

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