A dad-of-15 who kept a vulnerable man as a slave and forced him to live in a shed without a toilet or washing facilities has been jailed.
James McCann brought Hungarian national Andras Varga to the North East of England where he put him to work for hardly any pay in a shocking case of modern slavery, Chronicle Live reports.
A court was told that Vargas originally stayed in a tent close to Blyth beach before being moved by McCann’s partner to a metal shed in the back garden.
He was banned from entering the family home, forcing him to go to a supermarket to use the bathroom, before he was finally found by police in a dirty and disheveled state.
Now dad-of-15 McCann, 69, who was brought up in the traveling community, has been jailed at Newcastle Crown Court for modern slavery.
The court heard Mr Varga, who spoke very little English, came to the UK in 2007 and worked in various places in the south and was treated “well enough” by a family who gave him work.
He ended up living on the streets for a time until someone called Mike started giving him odd jobs for £30 to £40 a day.
Mike then passed him on to McCann, who brought him to the North East in 2017.
Varga was put in a tent next to McCann’s caravan at Blyth beach. Even when McCann was not in the caravan, Varga was not allowed access to it to sleep or wash.
Instead he was given a small bowl of water to wash or did so in the sea and he used public toilets in the area.
A council officer noticed the tent and when Varga was spoken to his was “disheveled and dirty” and police were contacted.
McCann then moved Mr Varga to live in a metal hut or shed in the back garden of his partner’s home in Chestnut Avenue, Blyth.
It had no sink, washing facilities or toilet and he had to go to a local Lidl store to use the toilet and was not able to wash his clothes. The electricity was provided by a cable from inside the house.
The only time Varga was allowed in the house was to help with decorating and to take some groceries in.
McCann put the victim to work in menial roles and would pay him £10 to £20 a day doing things like pressure washing drives or gardening, sometimes for five hours a day.
Prosecutor Vince Ward said: “He has exploited Mr Varga for cheap labour.”
He added: “Mr Varga was in the UK with no family or friends and he spoke very little English.
“He knew he was being exploited but said it was better for him than living on the streets.
“But he said he might have caught hypothermia and not survived had they not found him.”
It was on November 30, 2017 that he was found and rescued by police.
Ward said when Varga was found “he was disheveled, wearing several layers of clothing and appeared drunk.”
McCann told officers Varga had said he preferred to stay in the shed than in the house and said he himself had lived in there at times. He claimed he had taken pity on his victim and fed him well.
The court heard the victim has since died of an unrelated illness in Hungary.
McCann, who has 51 previous convictions, including for violence and dishonesty, pleaded guilty an offense under the Modern Slavery Act of holding Mr Varga in slavery between November 1 and November 30, 2017.
He was jailed for two years and nine months.
Sentencing him, Judge Edward Bindloss said: “In the shed it was a limited space, with an unfit door and there was a camp bed with a dirty sleeping bag on it.
“There was no toilet or sink or laundry and he had to use a toilet in a supermarket because he was not allowed in the house.
“These offenses are always serious because of the lack of autonomy given to a person in his position.”
Joe Hedworth, defending, said McCann had suffered heart attacks and has other health problems.
Mr Hedworth added: “He would be offering a sincere apology to Mr Varga if he was still with us, for the distress he caused, unintentionally.
“He lived in that shed for a significant period of time himself.”
Mr Hedworth said the financial gain to McCann would have been up to £200, there was no violence used or threatened and said his understanding of the offending was limited.
The court heard McCann, now of Green Road, Kinross, Scotland, didn’t go to school or learn to read or write.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.