Claims that victim ‘treated like family’ at Glasgow slavery trial

The trial at Glasgow High Court continues
The trial at Glasgow High Court continues

A man who claims he was beaten and held by members of a travellers group was in fact treated like “part of the family”, a court heard yesterday.

James Keith alleges he was attacked after being offered work while a homeless teenager in the 1990s.

He was giving evidence for a second day at the trial of Robert McPhee, 65, James McPhee, 45, Steven McPhee, 37, and John Miller, 38, who face a total of 30 charges including slavery and violence.

Jurors at the High Court in Glasgow heard that James McPhee was “outraged” at accusations made against him.

Mr Keith, now 41, earlier told the court he had worked for Robert McPhee – nicknamed The Tank Commander - then later his son James.

He claims he was subjected to violence by Robert and James McPhee and left feeling he was “owned”.

The court heard yesterday Mr Keith broke a “sacred bond” with the family amid claims of theft in 2003.

Derek Ogg – James McPhee’s QC – questioned the witness.

The defence advocate said: “James told you to leave and if you had not, you would have been put out.

“That was how the association ended. You had been treated like a member of the family and you go and apparently steal money.

“That is a gross breach of trust, if that happened.”

Mr Keith replied: “I have never stolen from them.”

Despite this, Mr Keith got in touch with a relative of James McPhee in 2014 – 11 years after last being in contact.

Messages were exchanged on Facebook before Mr Keith spoke to McPhee on the phone.

Mr Keith had been in a lowly paid cleaning job at the time and was looking for extra cash.

Mr Ogg put to him: “The person you were turning to for help was James McPhee.

“Despite you telling the jury that he done things to you.

“Mr McPhee is outraged by the accusations and denies them.”

The QC again said Mr Keith had once been accepted as “part of the family”.

In connection with the 2014 contact, the advocate went on: “They did help you. You went to work for them for five weeks?”

Mr Keith: “I think so.”

The trial, before Lady Stacey, continues.