A father and son who kept a man as a slave for 40 years has avoided being sent to prison.
Peter Swailes was given a nine-month prison term, suspended for 18 months in court this morning, for his sickening crimes.
He was initially charged alongside his 80-year-old father, also called Peter Swailes, with Modern Slavery Offenses – but his father died last year shortly before standing trial.
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Both men had denied the charges, which included conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of an individual between 2015 and 2019 with a view to him being exploited.
But Peter Swailes Jr later pleaded guilty to the offense at Carlisle Crown Court last month, and was sentenced today.
The dad and son’s crimes were uncovered after a three-year investigation by the Gangmasters and Labor 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.
Investigators carried out a search warrant at Hadrian’s Caravan Park on October 3, 2018 and discovered the small green wooden shed next to the caravan.
They found there was no heating in the cramped shed, with a soiled duvet on the floor and a metered television.
They knocked on the door and were greeted by the victim, who appeared disheveled and agitated before telling officers he had lived there for 40 years.
The victim then asked if he could have a wash, indicating that he washed in a kitchen sink in a building next to his shed, the GLLA said.
The Authority say the shed was in a ‘poor’ condition with just one window which could not be fully closed. It was in complete darkness when the doors were shut.
An old electric heater with damaged wiring was discarded in the corner of the shed, and there was no other heating inside, they said.
By contrast, officers noted that another shed on site used for the family dog to sleep in was in a far better state, the GLLA say.
During an interview with investigators, the victim said he worked on farms.
He described painting, slating and tarmacking and said he was paid as little as £10 per day.
As the investigation continued, officers suspected Swailes’ son of the same offenses.
Peter Swailes Senior was arrested in his static caravan on suspicion of offenses under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
At the time of his arrest he was heard to say: “Not all this slavery thing again”.
Swailes Junior, of Cryndlbeck Stables, Low Harker, Carlisle, was arrested at the same site by the GLAA in April 2019 and offered no comment during a police interview.
Both men were subsequently charged with conspiracy to organize the travel of an individual with a view to exploiting them, contrary to Section 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and Section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977.
However Swailes Senior 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.
He lives in supported accommodation outside of Cumbria.
Swailes Jr, 56, received a suspended jail sentence after he admitted conspiring with his father to financially exploit the man since July 2015 – when the Modern Slavery Act came into law. The Crown accepted Swailes Jr’s basis of plea that although he had known the victim for many years he was unaware of his living conditions.
The case was described as ‘harrowing’ by a senior investigator, who said the victim would be ‘traumatized’ for the rest of his life.
Senior Investigating Officer Martin Plimmer said: “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.”
Mr Plimmer added: “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.”
He added: “We are sadly all too aware of the fact that [the victim] will be traumatized 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.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.