A man and woman from Runcorn have been arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences relating to shop labour after raids in Halton and Merseyside.
Merseyside Police said the pair have been released on bail following eight warrants at residential and commercial properties in Runcorn, Widnes, St Helens, Prescot and Kirkdale last Thursday.
A Merseyside Police spokesman said the man, 46, and woman, 43, were arrested on suspicion of offences under Sections 1 and 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
The force has confirmed that Ascot Stores on Ascot Avenue in Runcorn and a premises on Milton Road in Widnes were among the properties where warrants took place.
Detective Chief Inspector Cheryl Rhodes said the warrants showed that Merseyside Police takes human trafficking seriously as she urged residents to speak out about any suspicions they have that offences might be taking place.
Discussing the general issue of modern slavery, she said offenders often prey on extremely vulnerable people, sometimes from abroad who do not understand the language or are desperate to provide for themselves and their families.
She said: “The offenders callously exploit that desperation for their own ends, and we are determined to put a stop to that.
“Modern slavery takes many forms but some of the most common are sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude.
“Victims are forced to work in…