By David Laycock • 12 May 2023 • 23:22
Disabled man's wife and carer found guilty of slavery
A disabled man was kept in squalor while his wife and carer had an affair. The pair leached off his benefits and have now been charged with slavery.
Sarah Somerset-How, 49, and George Webb, 50, had an affair while cerebral palsy sufferer Tom Somerset-How, 40 wasted away in his filthy West Sussex home.
Mr Somerset-How was found to be under 7 stone (44kg) in weight when he managed to alert authorities and family members to his plight. He was alleged to have been allowed a once-weekly shower but hadn’t cleaned his teeth for a year.
Sarah Somerset-How and George Webb had used the victim’s benefit payments and Mr Webb’s income as his carer to fund their lifestyle and affair. All the time Tom, who requires 24-hour care, was neglected and living in squalor.
Tom Somerset-How is a well-educated and intelligent man, and his sister Kate Somerset-Holmes is a famous actress known for roles in Holby City and Silent Witness.
Described in court as having been cut off from his loved ones, Tom’s sister Kate had managed to gain access to the house and taken photos of the filthy conditions including thick dust, piles of clothes, full ashtrays and a strong smell of marijuana.
Questioned in court, Sarah Somerset-How explained that she hadn’t got around to certain chores that day, but the photos taken by his sister Kate portrayed long-term negligence.
In court, Tom Somerset-How was described as a prisoner in his own home, the house he shared with his wife and carer in Chichester. His living conditions were described as those afforded to a possession or to cattle.
Despite arguments to the contrary from the carer George Webb’s defence lawyer, who suggested that the prosecution was trying to ‘shoe-horn’ slavery into an admittedly ugly case of abuse, the prosecution led by Paul Cavin KC had no qualms in defining the case as slavery.
Mr Cavin was quoted by the Mirror as saying in court: “It is the use of him and effective imprisonment of him, keeping him away from his family, that allowed them to use his benefits. That is why this applies to both slavery and servitude.”
This is believed to be a first-of-its-kind case in the UK, as those known to fall into slavery have been typically trafficked from overseas, making Mr Somerset-How’s treatment unique. He is now known to be rehoused away from his abusers, who await sentencing.
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Dave Laycock has always written. Poems, songs, essays, academic papers as well as newspaper articles; the written word has always held a great fascination for him and he is never happier than when being creative. From a musical background, Dave has travelled the world performing and also examining for a British music exam board. He also writes, produces and performs and records music. All this aside, he is currently fully focussed on his journalism and can’t wait to share more stories from around the world and beyond.
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