Calls to review sentence of Cumbrian man who exploited a 'slave'

Peter Swailes, who forced a man to live like a 'slave' in a shed for nearly 40 years.
Screengrab credit: Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).
Peter Swaile's case could be reexamined. Credit: Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority

There are calls to review the case - and sentence - of a builder from Cumbria who was involved in the exploitation of a vulnerable man for decades.Peter Swailes Jr was given a nine-month suspended sentence last week, meaning he won't have to go to prison if he meets certain conditions.

The victim was kept in a filthy shed on the edge of Carlisle by Swailes' father, who died before facing trial.

Swailes Jr had used the man for labour, paying him just £10 per day.

Last month he leaded guilty to a human trafficking offence, on the basis of "limited" involvement.

Christian Guy, chief executive of the anti-slavery charity Justice and Care, is calling for the acceptance of his plea to be reviewed, as well as his sentence.

"The whole of that plea is based on his argument that says he knew nothing for four decades about this man being kept in a shed and treated like a dog - or worse than a dog, the prosecutor said - and I have real doubts that this is true, and I want to know if that was investigated properly, or whether it was a quick decision, to get a quick result and a conviction, in which case that needs a complete review."The Crown Prosecution Service told us today: "We carefully reviewed the evidence we had available in the case against Peter Swailes Jr after the death of his father. We concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Peter Swailes Jr was responsible for the accommodation arrangements, which were at a different location from his address, or that he had full knowledge of the living conditions and the extent of the exploitation of the man living in the shed."

It is not clear if the CPS will review the case, or what the consequences could be.

Peter Bone, who raised the case in the House of Commons.

Yesterday Wellingborough Conservative MP Peter Bone, who has worked on modern slavery issues, raised the case in parliament, asking for the sentence to be reviewed to see if it was unduly lenient.

Solicitor General Alex Chalk MP responded: "Yes of course we will look at that. Sentencing is of course a matter for the independent courts, but there is a power to refer cases where they're unduly lenient. I will be very happy to give that close attention."

Today, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said: "I can confirm that the sentence given to Peter Swailes has been referred to this office for review to determine whether the sentence is too low."

If they believe the sentence is too lenient, they will refer it to the Court of Appeal, where judges will decide whether to change it.