SLAVERY CASE SURFACES IN UK
Issue Date 29 July - 04 Aug, 2017 at 2:00 PM
Afew days ago, a case came to light which many did not believe could not possibly happen in twenty-first century Britain. But it did.
The story concerns a man whom we will call Bill, clarifying that this is not his real name. Bill had some problems at school and did not finish his education with any real qualifications. He used to stay at home but sometime in his twenties got a place of his own where he moved into. He used to contact his parents from his place every now and then. One day, his parents received a call from a lady purporting to be his girlfriend who informed them that Bill had had an argument with her and left the home in a bit of a huff. That was about a couple of days prior to the call and that he had not returned home since then.
The worried parents were thinking of calling the police when they got a call from Bill telling them that he was with travelling friends. This was the first time his parents had heard about a girl-friend and this was also the first time that they came to know he had ‘travelling friends.’ Asked what these friends did, Bill said that they travelled from place to place looking for work, earning money from whatever work they could find and so pass their days. It did not sound like a great life but Bill said he was happy to be with them and that he would stay in touch. He called again after a few days, this time sounding rather less happy than he did the first time but in answer to queries from his worried parents, only said that he was in Wales and that he was okay.
That was it. For the next 11 years neither his parents nor his siblings heard anything from Bill. They made repeated complaints to the police but the police refused to take any action saying that Bill was over 18 and that he had gone off on his own free will and that therefore the police could do nothing. His parents entreaties that although he may have gone off his free will, the fact that he had not got in touch for over 11 years meant that he may have been killed or perhaps was being held against his free will somewhere, fell on deaf ears. Again, since they not able to give any specific location, the police, perhaps understandably, said they were unable to do anything.
In the end, his desperate parents thought that they would ask some local papers in Wales to publish Bill’s story and see if anything came of that. Many of the papers simply threw their story into the bin, but one did respond, expressing a willingness to carry their story. They were, however, warned that it was extremely rare to receive any feedback from the stories.
The story was published and in the first week following the publication there was no response whatsoever. But a week after the publication, the phone in Bill’s parents home rang and his Dad went to answer it. He came back into the parlour after his telephone conversation looking ashen faced. A lady was on the phone, he said. She did not identify herself and did not say where she was speaking from. But she did say that she thought Bill was alive and that they should come to a particular pub in a small rural area of Wales to find out.
Bill’s parents and his younger brother left the next morning in their car, driving all the way to Wales. They managed to find the pub but there the trail appeared to run cold. The pub owner could not give them any further information. He had not heard of Bill and had not seen the story in the local paper. He could not say who may have been the lady who got in touch with Bill’s parents. None of the other patrons of the pub could cast any light in this regard.
Dejected, they were about to give up, resigning themselves to the fact that this trail led nowhere. They got out of the pub when Bill’s younger brother decided that they should take a drive down the only road that seemed to lead away from the pub and out of town. His parents asked him why but he said that he just felt like going down that road. The road passed through farmlands and after they had driven for some time the parents felts it was time to turn back as this was leading nowhere. They turned the car around and as they did so, Bill’s brother saw a man working in the fields some distance away. Something entirely inexplicable prompted him to ask his Dad to stop the car while he went and spoke to the man working in the fields about fifty years away.
As he walked up to the man, the man continued working for it was apparent he had not heard anyone coming up. As Bill’s brother was walking up he felt there was something about the man that reminded him of Bill and as he approached closer, the feeling grew stronger. Finally he was standing right next to the man and although the man had a beard and quite clearly not had a bath in ages, Bill’s brother felt sure that it was his brother. He called him by his name and the man looked up. He first denied he was Bill. The brother, however, was sure and motioned to his parents in the car to come over quickly which they did. As they came up, the mother immediately recognised her son. Bill fell into her arms, unable to control his tears. He could not say how he came to be where he was and appeared too scared to reveal anything. The police were immediately called and they took Bill away.
After a shave and his first bath in over a decade, Bill started to come out with his story. Always a very passive sort of fellow, he had been waylaid and enticed to go with someone he didn’t know. After working for a few days at different locations, he finally found himself in a farm where, for eleven years, he was kept as a slave and worked to the bone. He slept in a shed without any heating and had only cold water to wash himself with – this in a place where winter temperatures regularly go well below zero and winter is six months of the years. He had never brushed his teeth during this time so they were in a state like the rest of him. Twice he made attempts to flee but was caught on both occasions and given a sound thrashing to dissuade him from any such attempts in the future.
The police, finally kicking into action, caught up with the man who had perpetrated this on Bill; he was tried and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. But no one serves a full sentence in the west, and the man was out in two years. What that meant was that for all he had made Bill go through for eleven years, and all the suffering, anxiety and worry he had caused his parents, friends and family during this period, he only paid with two years.
To those who think that the western legal system is perfect, this case may serve as a rude awakener. And all its imperfections are not going to be removed any time soon, because everything is weighed in terms of costs and the costs of a lengthy prison sentence can be prohibitive. When that is the deciding factor, justice goes out of the window. •
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