Man jailed over forced labour

Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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A farm owner who forced a vulnerable man to work for him for 13 years without pay has been jailed for four and a half years.

Missing Kidderminster man Darrell Simester was found in an appalling state on Cariad Farm near Newport, south Wales, last year.

The timid 44-year-old said he lived in a rat-infested shed for a decade and would wash himself in an animal trough after working 15 hour days for boss David Dan Doran.

Mr Simester’s parents Tony and Jean described their eldest child as unrecognisable and looking more like a man in his nineties when reunited with him.

Cardiff Crown Court today heard that, given the long hours Mr Simester worked, he could have earned more than £200,000 if paid the minimum wage.

Judge Neil Bidder said it was clear horse breeder Doran had taken advantage of a man with low intelligence.

Judge Bidder said: “He was not paid a penny by you for 13 years of hard labour, without holiday, from 7am to 10 or 11pm.

“At the current minimum wage, you profited by his labour by something over £200,000.

“You cared not at all about his health, which undoubtedly deteriorated during his time at the farm.

“I do not believe you were unaware that he worked for years for you, doing heavy manual labour, with a hernia the size of a grapefruit.

“The threat you knew was held over him was leaving the farm and fending for himself, which he was frightened to do.

“This was economic exploitation of a very inadequate individual of a very serious and ruthless kind.

“You provided him with a roof over his head and food, but in truth you did not treat him much better than a slave.”

Mr Simester, who was described in court as timid” and “easily led”, was last seen by his family in 2000 while “working” for a local couple called Sue and Jimmy Loveridge.

A court heard the pair had “a reputation” in the Kidderminster area and terrified Mr Simester would hand over almost all of his £120 weekly wages to the couple.

He later fled their clutches during a holiday in Porthcawl and came across the Doran family while attempting to walk back home.

After taking up a “job offer”, he was taken to Cariad Farm in Peterstone – owned by the defendant, who is also known as “Young Dan”.

Mr Simester told a jury that for the first 10 years on the farm he slept in a shed, where rats were “scratching the door every night”.

“I had no bedding… I would keep warm with a jacket,” he said.

He also said the only toilet he had use of was broken and he would have to get rid of his excrement using a stick and bucket of water.

He never used a toothbrush during his time on Cariad and washed himself in a feeding trough using washing-up liquid.

Although he was “free” to leave the farm at any time, the Crown said Mr Simester was exploited because of his impressionable nature and low intelligence.

In his opening, prosecution counsel John Hipkin highlighted an incident when Mr Simester fractured his hip yet still turned out for work the following day.

Mr Hipkin QC said: “Would he have volunteered (to carry on working) with a broken hip…. or (was there) some control over him?”

Mr Simester initially kept in touch with his family, but phone calls home suddenly stopped in 2008 – prompting parents Jean and Tony to contact missing persons charities as well as launching a Facebook campaign.

After being told their son was in the Cardiff area, the couple issued a plea for information in local newspapers the Western Mail and the South Wales Echo.

It prompted a reader to get in touch and led Mr Simester’s parents, along with his brother Duncan, to the gates of Cariad Farm on February 27 2013.

Duncan later told a court his younger brother looked totally unrecognisable from the baby-faced 31-year-old he last saw at the local pub.

And mother Jean fought back the tears in front of a jury as she recalled the moment she laid eyes on her eldest child for the first time in more than a decade.

She said: “He looked like a vulnerable old man. He did not look like my son at all.

“He was hunched over and and was more like a man of 90 than a man of 43.

“I just couldn’t believe it was my son.

“I asked him to show me where he’d been living. He took me to his caravan. It was disgusting. It was a disgrace.

“You wouldn’t have had an animal living there.”

Mr Simester later told police he had not been forced against his will to work – with detectives arriving at the farm describing him as “content”.

But his mother Jean later said she was convinced her son had been “brainwashed” while on the farm.

Defending QC Nick Barraclough said his client “Young Dan”, 43, strongly denied forcing Mr Simester to work at his farm through the use of threats or violence.

But a guilty plea was submitted on the basis that Doran Junior “ought to have known” the farm labourer’s duties were not voluntarily performed.

Mr Barraclough said his client was a man of previously clean character and argued the offence was at the “lower end of the scale” when compared with other cases.

Doran Junior was initially on trial with his 67-year-old father Daniel Doran.

But “Young Dan” changed his plea to guilty three weeks into their case, just as their defence was due to start and moments after a judge threw out a “no case to answer” application.

After he pleaded guilty, the Crown decided to drop the case against Doran Senior.

Catrin Attwell, senior prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service Wales complex casework unit, said there was no place for any form of modern day slavery in 21st century Britain.

She added: “If there is a positive to be drawn from this case, I hope it will be to raise public awareness of this issue. People in the heart of our local communities are often the ones best placed to spot the signs of exploitation taking place.

I would urge anyone who may have any such concerns to contact their local police immediately.

“Today’s sentencing concludes the criminal justice process and I hope this will help Darrell and his family as they seek to move forward with their lives.”

Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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