“Servitude” kidnap gang jailed for total of 29 years

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A gang was yesterday jailed for a total of 29 years after being convicted of a savage campaign of kidnappings, violence and intimidation against terrified workers.

Robert McPhee, 65 – nicknamed The Tank Commander – and his sons James, 45, and Steven McPhee, 37, as well as son-in-law John Miller, 38, preyed on vulnerable men.

The victims – eight in total – came from broken or troubled backgrounds. They were promised work and money doing jobs such as mono-blocking driveways for the notorious family.

But, the men did long shifts for little or no pay and were brutally punished if they complained or attempted to escape from the gang.

Passing sentence judge Lady Stacey told them people who had a “variety of problems” were “used by them” for work.

She said: “You did not treat them properly. In some cases there was violence over a long period, in others there were abductions by which you forced people away from their families and forced them to work for you. The jury convicted three of you of serious offences and one of you pled guilty to assault.

“These are serious matters, the evidence showed an attitude from you of thinking that you were able to tell people what to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to live and backing up your instructions with violence.”

Robert McPhee – known as Bobby - was convicted of 14 charges, James McPhee eight and John Miller was found guilty of two.

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

Robert McPhee was jailed for a total of ten years with two years supervision when he is released.

James was sentenced to nine years behind bars and three years supervision, and Miller was jailed for a total of seven years with three years supervision.

James McPhee said “I’m an innocent man” after being given his sentence by the judge.

Steven McPhee had also stood trial, but he admitted to assaulting one worker, who damaged his van, near the end of the case. He was jailed for three years for his part.

The gang shouted other, inaudible comments as they were led away from the dock.

One tortured victim told how he was battered and “taught a lesson” when he tried to get away. Another said he was “owned” by the family.

Jurors heard further grim evidence of a petrified worker “left cowering like a dog” due to the abuse.

The gang denied the charges claiming they were picked on by “overzealous” police.