A MAN who says he was subjected to slavery has denied being a ‘cunning and well-practised liar.’

Paul West is one of two men who claim they were exploited and forced into labour by Michael Joyce, of the Redbridge Hollow traveller site in Oxford.

Joyce, 60, denies five charges of modern slavery, which allegedly took place between April 2016 and January 2018.

West was cross-examined at Oxford Crown Court yesterday, where jurors heard medical records in which he discussed his heroin use and bipolar disorder with two different doctors.

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Highlighting discrepancies between the separate accounts, in which Mr West has appeared to have downplayed his depression and drug use, defence barrister Paul Hynes QC said: “Let’s go through the lies you told the doctor...you added some interesting detail to make it sound convincing.

"You are a cunning, deceitful and well-practised liar, like most dependent drug users, because they have to keep the scale of their drug use from people around them.

“You have become, because of your drug use, a skilled liar. The scale of your drug use was enormous.”

Mr West, 50, denied this, adding: “People who take drugs are very vulnerable people, usually looked upon by society as the lowest of the low.

“With psychiatry [professionals] you try to keep things [you tell them] to a minimum, because the thought of being put in the mental health system is worrying. The less they knew, the better it was.

“I didn’t want to be carted off to a psychiatric hospital, and the threat to my family and my partner from the Joyces was quite high.

“That’s why I lied to the doctor.”

Mr West, who said he is now clean of drugs, admitted to being a regular heroin user before meeting Joyce in early 2016.

But he said after becoming involved with Joyce and his family, his addiction 'spiralled out of control'.

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The court was read extracts from Mr West's diary, in which he said he had documented sums of money that Joyce had ‘constantly’ demanded from him, to repay a never-ending debt that stemmed from a £50 loan.

Mr Hynes questioned why, if Mr West only owed money to Joyce and no one else, there was a need to put his name next to the sums he owed.

The barrister added: “Is this a clever little fabrication to cover up your spending on drugs?

“Is it an insurance policy, so you could produce this and say ‘look, I was being put to work for nothing by this nasty family down at Redbridge Hollow?’”

Mr West, who lived in Berinsfield during the time he said he was exploited, denied lying about the diary.

Mr Hynes said: “You say your life was a living hell because of the Joyces - that they pushed you into drug dependency, using and abusing you on a daily basis, that you were getting paid nothing.

“Yet you were telling the doctor that you were feeling much better, that you’d been doing gardening and were going to get back to university sooner than planned.

“I don’t understand the two pictures you’re painting.”

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Joyce has been accused of grooming the 'vulnerable' men to work for him, for little or no reward, carrying out work including building a pub at the back of his home.

Putting the defence case to Mr West, Mr Hynes said: “You did work [for Joyce], no more than half a dozen days over a period of several months, and you were paid £40 a day.

"You were well-fed into the bargain and given a lift to the site, and a lift back home.”

Mr West branded this ‘absolute nonsense.’

The trial continues.