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A man has pleaded guilty to exploiting a vulnerable worker who was made to sleep in a 6ft shed and work for as little as £10 a day for more than 40 years.
The victim was discovered in October 2018 by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), which protects vulnerable and exploited workers, after a three-year investigation kickstarted by a tip-off from a confidential helpline.
Supported by Cumbria Police and the National Crime Agency (NCA), the then 58-year-old victim was found to be living in a small green wooden shed in Hadrian's Caravan Park near Carlisle.
As reported by the BBC, the court heard how the cramped shed was in poor condition, with no heating, a soiled duvet on the floor and a metered TV.
The man, who was said to appear 'dishevelled and agitated', told the rescue team he had been living there for 40 years and asked if he could have a wash, indicating he'd been using a kitchen sink in a nearby building.
By comparison, GLAA officers noted that another shed in the caravan park used to house the family dog was in better condition.
When interviewed, the man revealed he'd worked on farms from the age of around 16, carrying out tasks such as painting, slating and tarmacking for as little as £10 per day.
These were the discoveries made after a search warrant was executed on 3 October, which led to the arrest of a man named Peter Swailes Sr.
When GLAA officers seized the man in his static caravan on suspicion of offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, he said: "Not all this slavery thing again."
Swailes Sr denied the charge but passed away in September 2021. However his son, Peter Swailes Jr, pleaded guilty to conspiring with his father to arrange or facilitate the travel of another individual with a view to him being exploited.
The court heard how the father would contact and arrange for his son to work with the victim from time to time.
After pleading guilty at Carlisle Crown Court on Tuesday (18 January), Swailes Jr was released on bail and will be sentenced on 4 February.
The victim was accepted into the government's National Referral Mechanism (NRM) on the day he was rescued and will continue to receive specialist support.
Speaking about the shocking case, GLAA 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."
Words: Daisy Phillipson
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