Thursday 16 August 2018

'Devoid of all humanity' - Pavee Point 'appalled' at Irish traveller family who ran modern slavery ring

Matthew Cooper

An Irish traveller rights group has welcomed the jailing of nine members of a traveller family convicted of "completely unacceptable" modern day slavery offences.

The head of the slavery ring, 57-year-old Martin Rooney, was jailed for 10 years and nine months after being convicted of wounding and conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Sentencing Rooney, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby, Lincolnshire, Judge Timothy Spencer QC contrasted the family's wealth, foreign holidays and expensive cars with the dirty caravans and squalid conditions their victims lived in.

The judge said the difference between the family's lifestyle and "spotlessly clean" living conditions, and the lives of their victims "was akin to the gulf between medieval royalty and the peasantry".

Undated handout photos issued by Lincolnshire Police of (top row, from the left) Bridget Rooney, Gerald Rooney, John Rooney, 53, John Rooney, 31, (middle row, from the left) Lawrence Rooney, Martin Rooney, 35, Martin Rooney Snr, Martin Rooney, 23, (bottom row, from the left) Patrick Rooney, 54, Patrick Rooney, 31, and Peter Doran, members of a traveller family have been jailed for running a modern slavery ring which kept one of its captives in
Undated handout photos issued by Lincolnshire Police of (top row, from the left) Bridget Rooney, Gerald Rooney, John Rooney, 53, John Rooney, 31, (middle row, from the left) Lawrence Rooney, Martin Rooney, 35, Martin Rooney Snr, Martin Rooney, 23, (bottom row, from the left) Patrick Rooney, 54, Patrick Rooney, 31, and Peter Doran, members of a traveller family have been jailed for running a modern slavery ring which kept one of its captives in "truly shocking" conditions for decades. Photo: Lincolnshire Police/PA Wire

Nottingham Crown Court heard that the Rooney family were “chilling in their mercilessness” towards victims, who were beaten and left without running water and sanitation in squalid conditions.

In a statement, released this evening, Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre, said they were appalled at the situation and unequivocally condemn the "despicable exploitation of vulnerable human beings as highlighted in this case".

“The people involved in this exploitation are devoid of all humanity,” said Martin Collins, Pavee Point Co Director.

We would like to offer our sympathies to the 18 victims in this case and urge people to contact the police if they have any information in relation to this type of exploitation.

“We hope this case won’t be used as a stick to beat Travellers with, as Travellers are appalled and sickened at this case,” added Mr Collins.

He said cruelty and criminality is not something that is exclusive to any one ethnic group – "but rather something that, regrettably, exists among all ethnic groups".

A total of 11 defendants were convicted of offences following a series of linked trials relating to modern slavery and fraud at Nottingham Crown Court.

Six people were initially arrested in September 2014 when seven warrants were executed in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and London as part of inquiries into allegations of modern slavery.

Undated handout photo issued by Lincolnshire Police of a caravan which men were forced to live in by the Rooneys. Photo: Lincolnshire Police/PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Lincolnshire Police of a caravan which men were forced to live in by the Rooneys. Photo: Lincolnshire Police/PA Wire

All the victims of the offences - including a man kept in "truly shocking" conditions for decades - were described as extremely vulnerable, with some having learning disabilities and mental health issues.

Passing sentence, the judge said Patrick Rooney, aged 31 and also of Drinsey Nook, had made "wild" accusations against police officers during his trial.

The judge added that Patrick Rooney - who was jailed for 15 years and nine months - claimed what was going on at Drinsey was no different from what was going on at other travellers' sites around the country.

The judge added: "Sadly I very much fear that you may be correct about that but that does make any of it right.

"It may be that society and government have been slow to wake up to this pernicious wrongdoing.

"But society and government have woken up - the relevant law - now known as the modern slavery legislation- came into force in 2010."

"And the jury's verdict made it crystal clear that society regards what was going on Drinsey as completely unacceptable."

Seven other members of the Rooney family were given custodial sentences ranging from 15 to five years, while two other defendants received suspended sentences.

Commenting after the case, Superintendent Chris Davison, head of crime for Lincolnshire Police, said: "The severity of these crimes is underlined by the sentences imposed by the judge.

"The victims will never get the years back that were taken away from them but I hope this provides them with some comfort that justice has been served and demonstrates that we will do everything in our power to try and stop others suffering in the ways that they did.

“We will not rest on this result as there are potentially other victims of modern slavery in our county.”

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs supported Lincolnshire Police from the start of the investigation, identifying income tax, VAT and Tax Credit offences after analysing the family's illegal trading activities.

Simon York, director for fraud investigation at HMRC, said: "These people lived a life of luxury by exploiting and abusing highly vulnerable individuals.

"They stripped them of their humanity, forcing them to live and work in terrible conditions."

The victims were forced to work either on travellers' sites or for the defendants' businesses repairing properties and paving driveways.

Prosecutors said that although food was promised, the victims, aged 18 to 63, were poorly fed and often went hungry, being paid little or nothing for working long hours.

The sentences:

John Rooney, 31, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby, Lincolnshire, jailed for 15 years and six months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, conspiracy to defraud, fraud by false representation and two counts of theft.

Patrick Rooney, 31, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby jailed for 15 years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, fraud by abuse of position, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and two counts of theft.

Bridget Rooney, 55, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby, jailed for seven years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Martin Rooney, 35, of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield, received for two years suspended for two years for conspiracy to defraud, two counts of converting criminal property.

Martin Rooney, 57, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby, jailed for 10 years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and unlawful wounding.

Martin Rooney, 23, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby, jailed for six years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Patrick Rooney, 54, of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, received 12 moths suspended for two years converting criminal property.

John Rooney, 53, of Chantry Croft, Pontefract, Yorkshire, jailed for five years and 10 months for two counts of conspiring to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Peter Doran, 36, of Washingborough Road, Lincoln, jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Gerard Rooney, 46, of Washingborough Road, Lincoln, jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Lawrence Rooney, 47, currently in prison, jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Press Association

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News