THE family of a man served with the county's first Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order said he was being unfairly 'treated like a criminal'.

Police said Mohammed Riaz housed a Polish couple in a ramshackle outbuilding in his yard and forced them to do manual labour for up to 17 hours a day for just several pounds.

The 64-year-old of Manchester Road, Nelson, was handed the order following a four-day hearing at Blackburn Magistrates Court.

Officers applied for it to prevent the risk of slavery and human trafficking offences from being committed.

But a spokesman for Mr Riaz, who was acquitted of two counts of getting another person to perform forced or compulsory labour following a trial at Preston Crown Court, said 'he was just trying to help them'.

A spokeswoman for the family said: "We completely disagree with the decision to serve this order.

"At the end of the day, he (Mr Riaz) was just trying to help someone in need.

"This is not right, it's not fair.

"We feel the police have a grudge against us."

The order prevents anyone living or sleeping in outbuildings at Mr Riaz’s home, he is not to knowingly employ anyone paid under the minimum wage and he must notify police of anyone working at his property.

Police said their investigation began in April 2015 when concerns were raised by social services about a Polish couple at the Riaz address who were believed to have been forced into work with little pay, no rest days and poor living conditions.

Officers from Blackburn's police safeguarding team did a welfare check and noticed 'appalling living conditions'.

The couple, a 25-year-old man, who had been living there since November 2014, and a 23-year-old woman, there since February 2015, were taken to safety.

Mr Riaz was questioned and in November 2015 was brought to court after charges were authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Officers said two months prior to this Mr Riaz had been made subject to an interim slavery order.

Police said the couple worked for Mr Riaz and lived in the grounds of his home in an outbuilding made from materials acquired from skips.

They were forced to work long shifts, sometimes for nearly 17 hours, painting, cleaning, building or fitting units in shops, officers said.

Police said while working, the couple were always supervised and were not permitted any breaks. They were paid very little or sometimes nothing at all. If they wanted a day off or missed a day they were told they would have to pay £7 each per day, police said.

When they weren’t forced to work, officers said the couple were kept in the outbuilding at Mr Riaz’s home address, and escorted if they ever needed to leave it.

They relied on Mr Riaz for food and often had to resort to scrounging through bins for leftover scraps, police said.

The spokeswoman for Mr Riaz said: "He is a high member of the family and the community and we feel this action is not right.

"He was just trying to help people in need. The order he has been given is treating him like he's a criminal.

"He is just a hard-working man like all of us.

"We don't feel justice has been served. The Polish couple did not even attend court, if they had a problem they would have attended the court.

"We are not happy with this, he really has not done anything wrong."

DS Rachel Higson urged anyone who was concerned about forced labour in their community to report it to police.

She said: “Mr Riaz stood trial over this matter in January where the jury failed to reach a verdict and were discharged.

"Following consultation with the CPS and after taking into account the wishes of the complainant a decision was taken to discontinue the case.

"We did however continue to pursue this order to take it from an interim to a full slavery and trafficking risk order.

“This makes this result all the more significant as it shows that we will continue to pursue every avenue available to us to achieve justice, safeguarding those affected and prevent others from becoming victims.

“Both the man and woman affected continue to be supported to ensure that they do not become victims again and can move forward rebuilding their lives.

“If you believe either yourself, or someone you know, is being exploited, be that through forced labour or in any other way, please do not suffer in silence.

"Look out for others in your communities. If something doesn’t seem right, call us on 101.”