A case study of modern day slavery that took place in front of everyone in Cumbria

Slavery in the modern world can be so subtle as to be almost invisible.

Their victims are often among the most powerless in our society – some of them vulnerable and isolated because they hardly understand English; sometimes anxious because of uncertain immigration status.

Others have been illegally smuggled into the UK and just want to stay under the radar, invisible to the authorities.

But there are other victims whose exploitation is happening in full view and whose suffering nonetheless continues. Among the most shocking examples of such modern day slavery was the case of Carlisle’s now infamous “scale slave”.

For decades this vulnerable man lived a life of utter misery.

Vulnerable with his learning disabilities, he had no family to look after his well-being. The “employer” he found at the Hadrian Park campsite on Brampton Old Road north of Carlisle was anything but caring.

From the age of 18, the man “worked” for Peter Swailes senior, lived at times in a horsebox and then in a disused caravan. When Gangmasters and Labor Abuse Authority (GLAA) investigators found him, his home was a garden shed measuring 6ft square.

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Rotten, damp and devoid of all comforts, it had neither heating nor lighting.

Swaile’s senior denied any wrongdoing but died before he could testify at Carlisle Crown Court.

But prosecutors of his son, also named Peter, heard a dog owned by Swailes senior had enjoyed better housing than the victim, as it lived in a nearby shed that was both carpeted and heated.

Prosecutor Barbara Webster told the court: “The victim was found by police in a rotting shed with water running through it, with a makeshift bed and clotted vomit in the corner; not as one would live freely and not where they would be if they could have found better housing.

“There was another shed with the same dimensions as the one [the victim] inhabited. It was in good condition and contained tools.

“The shed was dry inside, had a fitted carpet and light outside. There was no sagging or signs of rot in the floor. It had gas heating. This shed was for a small white dog that was present.

“The only food available [in the victim’s shed] was a half-eaten pot noodle, a bowl of candy, yogurt and chips.

“The smell of the shed was overpowering, smelling of damp material and vomit. He had few possessions to show for his 40 years of hard work.”

Ms Webster described the victim’s scanty belongings: a toiletry bag, three used coats, some stained comforters and a couple of CDs. When found, he was unkempt, wearing a damp jacket and jeans.

There were traces of color in his hair.

“How could this have gone unchecked for decades?”

The man told police he was being paid £10 a day for the work he was doing – which included high-level roof repair work and grass cutting – and he only had one set of clothes and no savings.

Readers across Cumbria reacted strongly to the charges, with many asking: why has no one acted to protect this man? How could such exploitation have gone unchecked for decades?

READ MORE: Strong new statistics suggest Cumbria is on track to record its highest death toll ever

Peter Swailes Jr., 56, whose late father was said to have been “controlling”, was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months. The judge accepted he had “limited responsibility” for what happened to the victim.

He also had no knowledge of the man’s circumstances, he said. However, Swailes Junior accepted to pay the man less than was due for the work done. The judge also accepted that Swaile’s junior had feared his father.

‘A new life’

The shed slave sacrifice has now begun a new life. Kyle France, a housing manager for the charity City Hearts who helped him, said: “When he arrived he obviously hadn’t washed in a very long time.

“He needed a doctor. He had some visible injuries. He arrived with only the clothes on his back. He just needed to be taken care of.

“In England it’s the longest I’ve heard of anyone being held in modern slavery. Why a shed? What did he do to earn a shed? The dog shed [owned by Swailes Senior] was better looked after.”

The victim has spent three years in the safe house, receiving hands-on assistance that includes help finding clothes and toiletries, and learning basic life skills like hygiene, cooking and using a washing machine.

He was also counseled to process his trauma.

CONTINUE READING: Elderly Carlisle sex offender jailed for illegal phone app

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