Modern slavery victim ‘kept in tiny shed for 40 years’

·3-min read

A man has admitted exploiting a vulnerable victim who told investigators he had lived in a shed for 40 years.

Peter Swailes Jr, 56, pleaded guilty at Carlisle Crown Court on Tuesday ahead of his scheduled modern slavery trial.

He had previously pleaded not guilty to conspiring with his father, Peter Swailes, 80, to arrange or facilitate the travel of an individual between 2015 and 2019 with a view to him being exploited.

His father, from Carlisle, denied the same charge but died last year.

The charges came after a three-year investigation by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), supported by Cumbria Police and the National Crime Agency (NCA), after a man was found living in a 6ft shed on a residential site north of Carlisle in October 2018.

GLAA and NCA officers found there was no heating in the cramped shed, with a soiled duvet on the floor and a metered television.

The shed had only one window which could not be fully closed and was in complete darkness when the doors were shut.

After they knocked on the door they were greeted by the victim who appeared dishevelled and agitated as he told them he had lived there for 40 years, said the GLAA.

When interviewed the victim said he worked on farms, painting, slating and tarmacking, and was paid as little as £10 per day.

Peter Swailes Jr leaving Carlisle Crown Court (PA)
Peter Swailes Jr leaving Carlisle Crown Court (PA)

The victim, in his late 50s, received specialist help after he was rescued and now lives in supported accommodation outside Cumbria.

The GLAA was able to contact the man after receiving a tip-off to a confidential helpline.

GLAA senior investigating officer Martin Plimmer said: “I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and professionalism of my investigators in dealing with what has been a very complex investigation, one that has thrown up numerous challenges along the way.

“First and foremost in my mind at this time though is the victim. We are sadly all too aware of the fact that he will be traumatised by his experience for the rest of his life.

“I am committed to ensuring he continues to have the regular, consistent support he needs which allows him to lead as normal a life as he can in the circumstances.”

Shed contained a metered TV and a soiled mattress on the floor (GLAA)
Shed contained a metered TV and a soiled mattress on the floor (GLAA)

GLAA officers said they found another shed on the same site, used for the family dog, which was in a better condition than the one the man was found in.

Swailes Jr, of Cryndlbeck Stables, Low Harker, Carlisle, was bailed until sentencing on February 4.

The court heard Swailes changed his plea on the agreed basis of his "limited" involvement with the victim and that he had not been made aware of his living conditions.

Swailes senior would also on occasion contact his son to arrange for him to work with the man, the court was told.

But he accepted that there had been times when he had paid the victim less than his "minimum entitlement".

GLAA investigators were supported by Cumbria Police and the National Crime Agency (NCA) in rescuing the victim.

Caravan park raid took place in 2018 (GLAA)
Caravan park raid took place in 2018 (GLAA)

A search warrant was executed at the Hadrian's Caravan Park near Carlisle on 3 October and Peter Swailes senior was arrested in his static caravan on suspicion of offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

"Not all this slavery thing again," he said when the GLAA told him he was being arrested

It said the victim had been sleeping in conditions "that no human being should live in".

Prosecutor Barbara Webster said the victim is in regular contact with authorities and will be cared for "until the end of his life".

She said: "He has accommodation that he is extremely happy with. He is in regular contact. He has a carer who comes in and checks him.

"He will be cared for until the end of his life."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting