Wednesday 25 April 2018

Irish travellers who kept men as slaves and tortured them to be sentenced today

Laura Harding in London

Four members of an Irish traveller family who forced destitute men into servitude, subjecting them to "mental torture" by making them work for up to 19 hours a day without pay, will be sentenced today.

Tommy Connors Senior, his son, Patrick, his daughter Josie and her husband James John Connors were found guilty of controlling, exploiting, verbally abusing and beating the men for financial gain at a caravan site near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.



During a 13-week trial at Luton Crown Court, jurors were told the complainants, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were forced to work in the Connors' block paving business.



The men 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, it was said.



Josie Connors, 31, and James John Connors, 34, were yesterday both 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, known at Big Jim, was also convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm but 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.



Tommy Connors Senior, 52, faced 11 counts and was convicted of one servitude charge and one forced labour charge, as well as one of ABH. The jury failed to reach verdicts on seven counts and cleared him of one charge of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude.



Patrick Connors, 20, was convicted of conspiring to hold a person in servitude, as well as forced labour and ABH charges. He was cleared of two counts of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude but the jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude and four of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.



A total of seven members of the family were on trial but the jury could not reach verdicts on charges regarding Tommy Junior, 27, Johnny, 28, and James Connors, 24, after nearly 39 hours of deliberating.



It cleared them all of several other counts.



The alleged crimes came to light last year after police raided the Greenacres caravan site on September 11 and the Connors were charged with offences related to servitude and forced labour under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.



The trial was previously told that one destitute man was plucked from the streets by the Connors family, forced to work as a "slave" and "mentally tortured".



The man was living in a hotel early last year when he was stopped by two travellers outside a Greggs bakery in Wembley, north-west London and offered an £80-a-day job, he said.



He agreed as it sounded like "good money" but he was taken to a traveller site, coerced into performing hard labour and never paid a penny, he claimed.



The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police that Connors family members had snatched his benefit money from him and forced him to perform hard manual labour for up to 16 hours a day, unpaid.



He was beaten, made to wash in cold water, fed mainly eggs and sandwiches or sometimes nothing at all, and lived in fear, he said.



Judge Michael Kay QC will sentence the four defendants later and a decision will also be made about the charges where no verdict was reached.

Irish Independent

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