Glasgow & West Scotland

Slavery 'victim' was treated like 'part of the family'

High Court in Glasgow
Image caption James Keith told the court he had worked for Robert McPhee and then later his son James.

A man who claims he was beaten and held by members of a travellers group was instead treated like "part of the family", a court heard.

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

He was giving evidence at the trial of Robert McPhee, James McPhee, Steven McPhee and John Miller.

But jurors at the High Court in Glasgow were told James McPhee was "outraged" at the accusations made against him.

It was claimed he gave further work to a cash-strapped Mr Keith in 2014 - despite the man alleging he was assaulted years earlier.

The four face a total of 30 charges between them, which span between 1992 and 2016, and include slavery and violence.

'Felt owned'

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

This involved jobs such as mono-blocking.

Mr Keith - who had been on the streets at 16 - lived with the McPhees at traveller sites across Scotland.

He claims he was subjected to violence by Robert McPhee, 65, and James McPhee, 45, and left feeling he was "owned".

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

James McPhee's defence advocate Derek Ogg QC said the alleged victim fell out with James McPake and was told to leave amid allegations of theft.

Mr Ogg said: "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."

But 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".

The trial, before Lady Stacey, continues.