Pensioner James McCann kept Hungarian man as slave in metal shed in Blyth with no toilet or water

James McCann, 69, kept a Hungarian national, who spoke limited English, in 'disgraceful conditions' of servitude outside his partner’s home in Blyth.
James McCann was jailed for two years and nine months at Newcastle Crown Court Credit: Northumbria Police

A pensioner who kept a man as a slave in a metal shed with no toilet or running water in the North East has been jailed.

James McCann, 69, kept a Hungarian national, who spoke limited English, in 'disgraceful conditions' of servitude outside his partner’s home in Blyth.

The victim was initially made to live in a tent next to McCann’s caravan at Blyth beach, where he had to wash in the sea, before moving into the shed that had no toilet or running water, a court heard.

He had to go to a supermarket to use the toilet and was forbidden from going in the house.

On Wednesday, February 9, father-of-15 McCann was jailed at Newcastle Crown court after pleading guilty to an offence under the Modern Slavery Act of holding his victim in slavery between November 1 and November 30, 2017.

The metal shed which the victim lived in had no toilet or running water Credit: Northumbria Police

The court was told the victim arrived in the UK in 2007 and worked in various places across the country, but ended up living on the streets.

Ten years later, in 2017, he was passed on to McCann who took him to the North East – where the victim stayed in a tent at Blyth beach in Northumberland.

McCann then moved the victim into a metal shed outside his partner’s home on Chestnut Avenue in Blyth, the court heard.

On being found, the victim was reported to have acknowledged he was being exploited but said that it was better than living on the streets.

He had also added he feared he might have caught hypothermia had people not discovered him.

But McCann told officers the victim preferred to stay in the shed than in the house, and that he had been fed well.

The victim has since died following an unrelated illness back in his native Hungary.

Inside the metal shed in Blyth which the vulnerable victim was living in Credit: Northumbria Police

Detective Constable Neil Harrison, who led the investigation, said: “Modern day slavery is an appalling offence that strips people of their liberty and their dignity.

"It is especially poignant that the victim was not able to see justice being served.

“What makes this type of crime so difficult to spot is that it takes many forms and can affect absolutely anyone from any background, or walk of life, at any time.

“It is abundantly clear that McCann exploited his victim – in a different country with no friends or family and limited English – for cheap labour, anything from washing drives to gardening.

“The victim was made to stay in disgraceful conditions, without access to basic facilities such as a sink or toilet, and was dirty and dishevelled upon being found.

"McCann should be absolutely ashamed of himself."

A view of the 'disgraceful conditions' of servitude the victim was kept in Credit: Northumbria Police

The vulnerable victim's situation in the metal shed came to light when a member of the public contacted the Modern Slavery Helpline.

Det Con Harrison added: "Thankfully, after a member of the public contacted the Modern Slavery Helpline, we were able to discover this appalling set-up and ultimately bring McCann to justice.

“As a force, we take all forms of modern day slavery seriously and take proactive measures to clampdown and disrupt those behind it, as well as safeguarding victims.

"We would always ask anybody with any suspicions about this type of offence to report it immediately.”

He was found and rescued by police on November 30, 2017.

McCann, now of Green Road, Kinross, Scotland, was jailed for two years and nine months.

Joe Hedworth, defending, said McCann had health problems and had suffered heart attacks.

He told the court McCann would offer a "sincere apology" to the victim for the distress caused to him if he was still alive.Mr Hedworth also said McCann had also lived in the shed for a significant period of time.

He added that there was no use of violence or threats used against the victim, that his understanding of the offending was limited, and that McCann would have gained up to £200 financially.

The court also heard McCann did not attend school and did not learn to read or write.

Anyone with concerns about modern slavery and exploitation can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121700.

The Helpline is confidential and independent, free to use, can take calls in more than 200 languages, and operates 24/7, 365 days a year.

Alternatively, you can pass on information via independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by ringing 0800 555 111.