Traveller couple jailed in homeless slavery case
A husband and wife from an Irish Traveller family have been jailed after being convicted of enslaving homeless men.
James John Connors, 34, known as Big Jim, was sentenced to 11 years and his wife Josie Connors, 31 - also his cousin – was jailed for four years.
They were both convicted of two counts each of holding a person in servitude and two of requiring him to perform forced or compulsory labour. James John was also convicted of bodily harm on a man over a sustained period.
Sentencing them at Luton Crown Court today Judge Michael Kay QC said: ‘The way in which these defendants, for their own financial benefit, brutalised, manipulated and exploited men who had already plumbing the depths of despair as homeless beggars is pure evil.’
Four members of the Connors family were found guilty of various offences relating to the exploitation and abuse of the homeless men yesterday. Two of the family members who were found guilty face a retrial before sentencing.
One of the men held captive fled in July last year and alerted the police that homeless men were being kept in squalid conditions on the Green Acres Travellers site in Leighton Buzzard and being forced to work for the family’s block paving and scrap metal business.
When Bedfordshire Police raided the site on 11 September last year 24 men were freed.
Judge Kay added: ‘The homeless, addicted and isolated men who sleep rough and beg on the streets were potential workers who could be exploited for financial gain.
‘These men were offered the prospect of money, food and accommodation in return for work. The promise of pay in return for work was a monstrous and callous deceit … The reality was that they were not paid and there was never any intention that they would be paid any significant sum.’
One of the victims who was with them for 15 months is asking for £30,000 compensation from the Connors family. The other, who was with them for 3 months and 23 days, wants £11,000.
Four defendants face a retrial next year on charges of holding men in servitude and making them carry out forced labour. Two have been bailed and two remanded in custody.
The accused are Tommy Connors Senior, 52, and his sons Tommy Connors Junior, 27, James Connors, 24, and Patrick Connors, 20. Tommy Connors and Patrick Connors, found guilty yesterday, will be sentenced after their re-trial in April next year.
A brother of Josie, Johnny Connors, 28, who lived at a site in Chiswell Green, St Albans, was freed after the jury found him not guilty of conspiring to hold a person in servitude and prosecutor Frances Oldham QC said she would not seek a retrial against him on a charge of conspiring to make a person perform forced labour.