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Traveller family guilty of forcing homeless men into 'slavery' - July-11-12
Source: The Telegraph (Telegraph Staff)
• Four members of a traveller family convicted of forcing destitute men into servitude
• Homeless and vulnerable were treated as slaves, paid nothing and lived in constant fear of beatings
• Victims had their heads shaved, couldn't shower or wash and slept in horse boxes
• Labourers were forced to carry out back-breaking work for up to 19 hours a day, six days a week
• Workers suffered black eyes, cuts, bruises, broken ribs and dog bites
Four members of a traveller family were today found guilty of forcing destitute men into servitude.
Today Tommy Senior, James John, Patrick and Josie Connors were convicted of controlling, exploiting, verbally abusing and beating the men for financial gain at a caravan site near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.
During the trial, the jury at Luton Crown Court heard that the complainants, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were forced to work in the Connors' block paving business.
They were given next to no food, forced to wash in cold water and paid little or no money for working up to 19 hours a day, six days a week.
Living in caravans and sheds deemed unfit for human habitation, prosecutors said the men spent Sundays doing further work by way of door-to-door selling.
Some were alcoholics, drug addicts or had previously been in trouble with the law, and were picked up off the streets, at soup kitchens or in homeless centres.
Prosecutor Frances Oldham QC summed up the case against the gang by saying "Physical violence and the threat of such violence, whether spoken or unspoken, was regularly used to ensure compliance with demands for work, to stopping any attempt to claim the promised wages and to instil a fear of retribution if any worker attempted to escape the clutches of the Connors family.
"The victims, and I deliberately call them that, were exploited because they were among the most vulnerable in society. They were controlled in such a way that in many cases they could not see the extent of the control.
"They became conditioned so that these defendants could earn an awful lot of money.
"A number of words may spring to mind to describe what was happening. They may not, in the strict sense, have been slaves but they were not free men."
On Sunday September 11 last year the 250 police officers carried out an early morning raid on Green Acres.
'Workers' were removed from the site and given medical examinations. Many were underweight and under nourished. One was suffering from scurvy. Their teeth were in poor condition.
Broken ribs were found amongst the men, along with scars and fresh wounds and dog bites.
One worker had been sleeping in his own excrement and all were in need of hygiene care. Other workers were traumatised and even now, 10 months later, are still receiving counselling and outreach support.
One allegedly told police he had been warned he would be "murdered" if he ever tried to leave, the trial was told.
Another said that living at the caravan site was like being in a "concentration camp".
Police raided the camp last September
The Connors were charged with offences related to servitude and forced labour under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
Josie Connors, 31, sobbed in the dock as other members of the family wept in the public gallery as the verdicts were read out.
Connors and her husband James John, 34, were convicted of two counts of holding a person in servitude and two counts of requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
James John was also convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and cleared of additional counts of holding a person in servitude and requiring a person to perform forced labour.
The jury failed to reach a verdict on a battery charge.
The Green Acres travellers site in Leighton Buzzard
Tommy Senior, 52, faced 11 counts and was convicted of one servitude charge and one false labour charge, as well as one of ABH.
The jury failed to reach verdicts in seven counts and cleared him of one charge of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude.
Patrick, 20, was convicted of conspiring to hold a person in servitude, as well as false labour and ABH charges.
He was cleared of two other counts but the jury failed to reach a verdict on seven others.
A total of seven members of the family were on trial but the jury failed to reach verdicts on counts regarding Tommy Junior, 27, Johnny, 28, and James Connors, 24, after deliberating for 38 hours and 48 minutes. It cleared them all of several other counts.
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