A Romanian father and son have been jailed for keeping a pregnant Polish woman as a domestic slave in their home in Tottenham, London, forcing her to work twelve hours a day even after she had suffered a miscarriage.
Ioan ‘Max’ Berlan, 47, and Reni Parczewski, 25, lured the girl to their home with the promise of £40 wages a day working at a car wash and free accommodation with Berlan and his wife. But none of the money ever materialised.
Andrew Frymann, prosecuting, told Southwark Crown Court: “The 19-year-old victim came to this country seeking work and a better life than the life she had in Poland.” Instead she ended up “penniless” and being forced to eat food not fit for animals, the court heard, during her captivity between December last year and February this year.
Recounting her treatment around the time of her miscarriage, she told police in her interview: “A day earlier when I noticed that I am bleeding and Max knew that I am miscarrying, that I am in the process of miscarrying, he told me to wash the floor and clean.
“A day or two [after the miscarriage] I had to go back to normal cleaning duties.
“I was ordered to clean the house regardless of whether I was well or unwell.
“I was used to clean and play a role of a servant for everybody.”
Following her miscarriage the girl was told by Parczewski that she was “no use” to them as they had hoped to collect child benefit payments, and she was put to work scrubbing their home from 9am to 9pm. Threatening to beat her up, he told her that he would take her to Birmingham to work as a prostitute in a brothel
“She was a vulnerable woman, she hadn’t been very well,” Frymann told the court.
“Knowing of the medical difficulties because they took her to the hospital, she was still told to wash the floor and clean and a day later had to go back to normal cleaning duties.
“She was told to clean the floor, wash the dishes. She was forced to work in the house as a servant.
“She was told if she didn’t clean the house there would be consequences, grave consequences.”
Reading from the victim’s statement Mr Frymann told the court how she was treated as a “toy” and called a “whore”.
She said: “I couldn’t go out anywhere, I was their servant. I came to the conclusion I will run away or be a servant for the rest of my life.”
Parczewiski and Berlan both pleaded guilty to holding a person in slavery and servitude, for which they were jailed for three years and 20 months respectively. Parczewiski received the longer sentence thanks to his threats to make the victim work in a brothel.
Sentencing them, Judge Testar said: “For a 19-year-old woman one thousand miles away from her home, her native land, and unable to speak the language of the country where she found herself this must have been humiliating and terrifying.
“No case where this offence is committed is likely to be trivial or meaningless.
“This work was burdensome to the extent that what was required of her and the way that it was required of her are accepted to amount to servitude.
“An incident of this is that when at the beginning of the time that she spent under the defendants she miscarried.
“She was not allowed any significant time to recover but was expected simply to carry on.”
He added: “The food that she […] was given to eat was described – according to the Polish meaning of the word – as food for animals and not for human beings. This reflected her status.”