THREE men accused of modern-day 'slavery' offences have gone on trial at Carlisle Crown Court.

The alleged offences  - dating back to 2016 and 2017 - relate to the Shiny Car Wash in Warwick Road, Carlisle, which was staffed by Romanian nationals who worked 11 and 12 hour days over six and in some cases seven days a week, the court heard.

Some workers had their identity cards kept by the defendants, it is claimed.

Opening the case, prosecutor Martin Reid told the jury that the three defendants - 35-year-old Jetmir Paci, his brother Defrim Paci, 40, and Sitar Ali - were all involved with the business.

All three defendants deny the charges they face.

There were as many as 17 Romanian nationals working at the car wash business when police intervened, said the barrister. Working for up to 11 or 12 hours a day, and over six or seven days per week, one employee was left with just £10 from his first week's wage after deductions, the jury heard.

"It is the prosecution case," said Mr Reid, "that the defendants agreed to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour on their behalf at the Shiny Car Wash here in Carlisle."

"You will have seen that the offences in counts one and two are referred to often as modern day slavery, or human trafficking .. These words are emotive. 

"It is important not to be prejudiced by the words that are used. The important thing is to listen to what the allegation are and in due course to decide whether they correct."

He said it was not the proseuction's case that the workers involved in the case had been smuggled to the UK. They were not and they had come to the country quite openly. He said: "The criminality arises because it was the intention of the people brining them in that they would be exploited."

The prosecution will seek to prove that workers at the business were made to work long hours for very low pay. The freedom of those workers was effectively overridden, said Mr Reid. "They were compelled to work long hours in bad conditions, for little pay," he said.

"In short, their labour, their work, was being being exploited for the benefit of the defendants."

Mr Reid said that some of the workers had paid £150 for their travel from Romania, and as many as 12 shared accommodation in a single property in Carlisle as a condition of their employment. For this, £30 per week was taken from their wages, said the barrister.

Mr Reid outlined the evidence due to be heard from one of the workers at he car wash. A Romanian national, he had paid £130 to be brought to Carlisle - one of three people who were brought to the city from his country to work at the Shiny Car Wash, he told police.

Mr Reid said: "He said he was told initially that he would be paid £25 per day but it would rise to up to £50 if he was a good worker." He lived in a house in Carlisle where up to 12 other workers were also staying, with their rent deducted from their wages.

They also had to pay £10 per week for electricity. The man said he also had to pay his new employer a £150 deposit and if he left the job without giving notice that money would not be returned. The man's accommodation was in Spencer Street, Carlisle, said Mr Reid.

"He described the accommodation as dirty," said the barrister.

"He was told that if he moved house, he would not be working for Shiny Car Wash any more. More than 30 people lived in the property in the year he lived there, he said. "He said he didn't get any breaks [at work] unless there were no cars to wash. He said he was paid in cash."

The worker said his employer did not provide protective clothing, and as a result his hands were damaged by the chemicals they used to wash cars. The man told police that his employer treated him and other works as they would treat slaves. 

All three defendants are charged with conspiring to require persons to perform forced, or compulsory labour.

The trio are also alleged to have conspired to arrange or facilitate the travel of others for the purposes of exploitation.

Sitar Ali is also charged with possessing criminal property - a sum of £16,000 in cash which the prosecution say resulted from crime.

The offence is also commonly known as money laundering, he said.

Defrim Paci's address was given as Windmill Close, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire; Jetmir Paci's address was given as Minimum Terrace, Chesterfield; while Sitar Ali has given an address of Adelaide Street, Carlisle.

Mr Reid told the jury of four women and eight men that his opening of the case was a summary and not evidence. The trial is expected to last five or six weeks.