Four convicted in 'slaves' trial

Western Telegraph: Four travellers have been convicted of forcing destitute men to work like slaves Four travellers have been convicted of forcing destitute men to work like slaves

Four members of a traveller family have been found guilty of forcing destitute men into servitude.

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.

The 13-week trial heard the men were allegedly 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.

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.

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. Judge Michael Kay QC told the court he will sentence the four defendants on Thursday and a decision will be made about the charges where no verdict was reached.

The trial, which lasted for 13 weeks, heard 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. 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.

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