Gang that abducted and tortured men in West Lothian lose appeal

The gang were jailed for a total of 29 years at the High Court in Glasgow last March. Picture: John Devlin
The gang were jailed for a total of 29 years at the High Court in Glasgow last March. Picture: John Devlin
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Two members of a crime gang who carried out a savage campaign of kidnappings, violence and intimidation against workers have failed in a bid to overturn their convictions.

Robert McPhee, nicknamed The Tank Commander, teamed up with sons James and Steven McPhee and son-in-law John Miller to prey on vulnerable men. The victims - eight in total - all came from broken or troubled backgrounds.

They were promised work and money doing jobs such as monoblocking driveways for the notorious family, who lived in various travellers’ sites in West Lothian and Lanarkshire.

But the men did mammoth shifts for little or no pay - and were brutally punished if they complained or attempted to escape the gang’s clutches.

The catalogue of crimes included abductions, assaults and holding workers against their will or “in servitude”.

The gang were jailed for a total of 29 years at the High Court in Glasgow last March.

However, Robert McPhee, 66, who was jailed for ten years, and Miller, 39, who received a seven-year prison term, launched appeals arguing they had been victims of a miscarriage of justice.

Their legal team said the trial judge, Lady Stacey, had failed to properly define the meaning of “servitude” when charging the jury.

However Lord Carloway, sitting with Lord Menzies and Lord Drummond Young, rejected the appeal bids.

He said: “The broad question for the jury was whether the appellant deliberately kept the complainer “in servitude”.

“If a person is forced to live under another’s control on that person’s property, held against his will and forced to carry out work for little or no money, he is being kept in a state of servitude.

“The trial judge directed the jury accordingly.”

Miller’s sentence was reduced from seven years to six after the appeal judges agreed there was a lack of evidence that he knew one of the victims had mental health problems.

Robert McPhee was convicted of 14 charges, James McPhee of eight and Miller was found guilty of two.

James McPhee, 46, was sentenced to nine years and three years’ supervision. Steven McPhee, 38, had admitted assaulting one worker who it was claimed had damaged his van. He was jailed for three years. The gang was caught during a large-scale police probe that began in 2016.