By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 19 January 2022 • 7:56
A vulnerable worker who was kept as a slave and held prisoner in a shed on a caravan park in Carlisle for 40 years has been freed. The man who kept him there has been jailed after appearing in court.
Peter Swailes, 56, kept a vulnerable worker in a green shed with conditions worse than his family’s dog, investigators said.
Investigators from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) rescued the victim, then 58, from the shed in October 2018 after receiving a tip-off to a confidential helpline.
Police obtained a search warrant and went to Hadrian’s Caravan Park near Carlisle on October 3 where the defendant’s father, also Peter Swailes, was arrested in his static caravan on suspicion of offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
His response to the officers when he was informed he was under arrest was: “not all this slavery thing again”.
Officers who searched the premises knocked on the shed door and before they could open it, the slave did so and greeted them. He appeared dishevelled and agitated, telling officers that he had lived there for 40 years.
The victim’s first request was to have a wash which he wanted to do in an old kitchen sink next to the shed. The conditions in which he was living were very poor with one window that did not close properly, no lighting and an electric heater with exposed wiring.
Officers noted that another shed on the site used for the family dog was in a far better condition.
According to the victim he worked on farms in the area, doing odd jobs and that he was usually paid £10 a day.
The court were only able to sentence Peter Swailes junior, after his father died in 2021 aged 81, shortly before standing trial.
The victim was accepted into the government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM) on the day he was rescued and continues to receive specialist support to this day.
He now lives in supported accommodation outside of Cumbria.
Senior Investigating Officer Martin Plimmer said: “This has been a really harrowing investigation. In all my years in law enforcement, I have never known a modern slavery case where the exploitation has taken place over such a long period of time.
“It is pleasing to see that Swailes has finally done the right thing and pleaded guilty. 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. Let’s remember that he has been exploited for all his adult life up until just a few years ago. He is now in his early 60s. This is something that even now I struggle to comprehend. For four decades, he was in effect kept as a slave.
“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.”
It is almost unbelievable in this day and age that a slave could be held prisoner in shed for 40 years, but it is a good example of how desperate people are at times or just how easy it is to exploit someone who is vulnerable.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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