Connors travellers should face tougher sentence says UK Attorney General
BRITISH Attorney General Dominic Grieve today urged appeal judges to impose harsher sentences on four members of a traveller family convicted of conspiring to force vulnerable men to work.
Mr Grieve - the Government's principal legal adviser - appeared in person at the Court of Appeal in London in an attempt to persuade judges to increase jail terms given to William Connors, 52, his sons John Connors, 29, and James Connors, 20, and son-in-law Miles Connors, 24.
The four men were jailed after being convicted of conspiracy to compel people to carry out forced labour by a jury at Bristol Crown Court in December. They had pleaded not guilty.
Judge Michael Longman handed William Connors, of Bristol, a six-and-a-half year jail term, John Connors, of Bristol, a four-year term, James Connors, of Bristol, a three-year term in a young offenders' institution and Miles Connors, of Chippenham, Wiltshire, a three-year term.
Mr Grieve - who is a senior barrister and the Conservative MP for Beaconsfield - suggested today that longer sentences should have been imposed to deter others from committing similar crimes.
"At the end of the day the sentences imposed did not reflect the seriousness of the offences," Mr Grieve told three appeal judges.
"At the end of the day the sentences imposed appear to use to have been too light."
Lawyers representing the men disagreed and told judges that the sentences imposed were not "unduly lenient".
The three judges - Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Irwin - said they would announce their decision at a later date.
Trial jurors had been told how the Connors family had a private workforce made up of men who were homeless drifters or addicts.
Prosecutors said workers were beaten and forced to work for as little as £5 a day.
Victims lived in squalid caravans on traveller sites as they moved around the country working on the Connors' paving and patio businesses, the trial heard.
The Connors had large caravans fitted with luxury kitchens and drove cars including, a silver A-Class Mercedes saloon, a Rolls-Royce, a red Mini convertible, a Toyota Hilux pick-up, a Ford Ranger and a Mercedes van, jurors heard.
Police found bank accounts containing hundreds of thousands of pounds in total and the Connors had built up a property portfolio potentially worth millions of pounds.
William and his wife Mary, 48, enjoyed exotic holidays, including a trip to Dubai and a Caribbean cruise.
Mary Connors was given a jail term of two years and three months. Mr Grieve did not challenge her sentence.