Millionaire traveller family paid nearly £500,000 in legal aid to fight court case
A FAMILY of millionaire travellers who kept workers in appalling conditions have been given nearly £500,000 in legal aid, it was revealed today.
William Connors, 52, wife Mary, 48, their sons, John, 29, and James, 20, and son-in-law Miles Connors, 24, were jailed in December last year after being convicted of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
The victims lived in squalid caravans on traveller sites, including one in Pleasley, on the Notts border.
With the profits from the work, the family funded a luxury holidays and drove around in expensive cars.
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Yet they were still able to claim legal aid.
The Legal Services Commission, the quango that oversees legal aid, paid a total of £461,363.68 for lawyers to defend the family during proceedings at Bristol Crown Court.
The large bill was run up during lengthy legal proceedings, which included a three-month trial.
The startling figures were revealed following a Freedom of Information request.
A Legal Services Commission spokesman said: "The law says that anyone facing a Crown Court trial for a serious criminal offence can apply for legal aid to ensure they have a lawyer, but funding is subject to a means test which could require them to pay towards their defence."
The Legal Services Commission could claw back the money if it is found the Connors have assets of over £30,000.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Taxpayers have every right to expect their money to be reclaimed at the very least."
The Connors' enterprise came to an end when police raided the site in Pleasley, as well as Staverton in Gloucestershire and Enderby in Leicestershire in March 2011 following a lengthy surveillance operation.
William Connors was jailed for six-and-a-half years and his wife Mary received a sentence of two years and three months.
John Connors was jailed for four years and his brother James got three years' detention in a young offender institution.
Son-in-law Miles Connors received a three-year prison sentence.
A hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act is expected to take place later this year when prosecutors will seek to seize the Connors' assets.