18 years for family who made men work for them
A TRAVELLING family who kept workers in appalling conditions have been sentenced to more than 18 years in jail.
All five were found guilty last week of forcing men to work for them and were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court yesterday.
William Connors, 51, will serve six-and-a-half years; his wife, Mary, known as Breda, 48, will serve two years and three months; son John, 29, was jailed for four years; and son-in-law Miles for three years. Son James, 20, will serve three years in a young offenders' institution.
The family tricked 37 homeless men into living with them on the promise of work, money and accommodation.
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They then made them carry out hard labour for little or no pay.
The victims lived in squalid caravans on traveller sites, including one in Pleasley, on the Notts border.
The vulnerable men picked up by Gloucestershire police in March 2011 were described as "desperate" by Judge Michael Longman.
He said the violence inflicted by the Connors helped define the barriers between worker and boss.
"The evidence did not suggest that violence was regularly used against workers, and rarely during the indictment period," the judge said.
"I am, however, satisfied that such violence as there was not only helped to define and emphasise the unequal relationship between bosses and workers, but also to serve to ensure the workers knew there was a line not to be crossed.
"For some of the workers, their circumstances before they met the Connors were so desperate that, by comparison, they considered themselves to be better off than they had been.
"Having previously been unemployed, they appreciated the opportunity to work.
"But the indignity of unemployment was replaced by the degradation that accompanied their inferior status. The freedoms and independence that usually accompany employment were largely absent."
The labourers were given little food and were brutally beaten.
Detective Chief Inspector David Sellwood said he hoped the sentences sent a clear message to others operating similar businesses.
"We are delighted with the verdicts," he said.
"It now sends out this message that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated by Gloucestershire police, or any other constabulary.
"William Connors is a very greedy and arrogant man. This was a commercial enterprise. This was all about making money and affording him a luxurious lifestyle.
"His means of earning a fortune were by exploiting vulnerable people – people at the bottom of society with no hope.
"He gave them false hope and then exploited them for years."