Tuesday 24 April 2018

Nine Irish jailed for keeping slaves 'like medieval peasants'

A caravan which the victims had to live in. Photo: Lincolnshire Police/PA
A caravan which the victims had to live in. Photo: Lincolnshire Police/PA

Matthew Cooper

Nine members of an Irish Traveller family convicted of "completely unacceptable" slavery offences have been jailed, after a judge likened their victims' plight to that of medieval peasants.

The head of the UK-based 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.

Two family members got suspended sentences.

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

Spotless

The judge noted the UK-based Irish Traveller family's lifestyle and "spotless" living conditions.

CONVICTED - Top row from left: Bridget Rooney, Gerald Rooney, John Rooney (53), John
Rooney (31). Middle row from left: Lawrence Rooney, Martin Rooney (35), Martin Rooney Snr (35), Martin Rooney (23). Bottom row from left: Patrick Rooney (54), Patrick Rooney (31), and Peter Doran. Martin Rooney Snr and Patrick Rooney Snr were given suspended sentences while the nine others all got jail terms ranging from 15 to six years in prison. Photo: PA
CONVICTED - Top row from left: Bridget Rooney, Gerald Rooney, John Rooney (53), John Rooney (31). Middle row from left: Lawrence Rooney, Martin Rooney (35), Martin Rooney Snr (35), Martin Rooney (23). Bottom row from left: Patrick Rooney (54), Patrick Rooney (31), and Peter Doran. Martin Rooney Snr and Patrick Rooney Snr were given suspended sentences while the nine others all got jail terms ranging from 15 to six years in prison. Photo: PA

He said the comparison with the lives of their victims "was akin to the gulf between medieval royalty and the peasantry".

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 with seven warrants executed in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and London as part of inquiries into modern slavery.

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.

A caravan which the victims had to live in. Photo: Lincolnshire Police/PA
A caravan which the victims had to live in. Photo: Lincolnshire Police/PA

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 were paid little or nothing.

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."

Irish Independent

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