Suspended prison sentence not increased for man guilty of keeping slave in garden shed

A man found guilty of modern slavery charges for keeping a vulnerable man locked in a garden shed for 40 years has had his suspended sentence upheld by the Attorney General’s Office.

Peter Swailes Jr, 56, of Carlisle, was handed a nine month prison sentence suspended for 18 months in February, following a trial which heard how he and his father Peter Swailes Sr, exploited a vulnerable man and kept him in a squalid shed for 40 years.

Our former client Chris* was rescued from the shed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) following a tip off from the public, and was found to have been kept in various poor accommodation, including a horse box, and used for free labour, since he was a teenager.

Peter Swailes Sr died before he could go to trial, but his son pleaded guilty to ‘conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another with view of exploitation’ at Carlisle Crown Court.

The sentence drew wide condemnation from the public and human trafficking organisations for being unduly lenient, and City Hearts, along with ten other UK anti-slavery charities, wrote to the Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions to express disappointment at the leniency of the sentence, and to call for an urgent review of how the prosecution was handled.

In light of this, the sentence was referred for consideration to the Attorney General’s Office under the Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme.

However, at a hearing today (Tuesday April 12), The Court of Appeal upheld the suspended sentence after the court concluded that the sentence was not unduly lenient.

The Attorney General, the Rt Hon Suella Braverman QC MP said: “There are no guarantees that any sentence we refer to the Court of Appeal will be increased. Peter Swailes’ sentence was referred to the Court of Appeal because it was considered to be too low and not reflective of the seriousness of his offending: he engaged in conspiracy to exploit an extremely vulnerable man. It was right to test the sentence, but I respect the Court’s judgment.”

City Hearts Head of Communications, Diane Peters, said: “We were disappointed with the sentencing of Peter Swailes Jnr back in February as we did not feel the sentence adequately reflected the magnitude of what our client Chris* was subjected to for over 40 years. As we had been instrumental in supporting Chris with his recovery, we felt it was essential that we, along with other third sector partners, advocated for a review of the sentence on the grounds it was unduly lenient.

“We are grateful to the Attorney General for granting the appeal, and although once again we are frustrated with the result, we respect the decision of the courts, and hope in years to come that further work can be done to ensure appropriate sentencing for modern slavery crimes. In the meantime, we remain committed to caring for survivors of modern slavery and bringing these hidden crimes and injustices to the attention of the public.”