Jail terms handed down to forced labour Connors family
The Connors family have been sentenced to more than 18 years behind bars today.
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 given four years, son-in-law Miles three years and their other son James, 20, three years in a young offenders facility.
All five were found guilty last week of forcing men to work for them.
The family tricked around 37 homeless men into living with them on the promise of work, money and accommodation. They then made them carry out hard labour for little or no pay.
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The men, many of whom were alcoholics or had mental health issues, were housed in crammed, squalid caravans at the Beggars Roost traveller site at Staverton. During the trial, it emerged they were given little food and were subjected to brutal beatings.
The charges relate to the period between April 5 2010 and March 23 2011, when the Connors were using a number of victims to perform a range of building and manual labour jobs across the country.
A year long investigation including a five month surveillance operation by Gloucestershire Constabulary culminated in March 2011 when officers carried out warrants at sites in Gloucestershire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire and 19 vulnerable people were rescued.
On arrival in court to hear their fate, William Connors, the head of the family of Irish Travellers, blew kisses to family members in the public gallery.
Breda was visibly upset and in tears as she entered court.
As the sentences were dished out, the wives of the three younger men sat in the public gallery clawed at the glass as crying broke out.
Their husbands gestured towards them before they were taken down to begin their sentences.
The vulnerable men picked up by police in March 2011 were described as desperate by His Honour Judge Michael Longman.
He said the violence they received 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," he 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."
Each defendant had earlier in the trial been acquitted of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude.
Lead officer in the Operation Tundra, DCI David Sellwood said he hopes the sentences send out a clear message to others operating similar businesses.
"We are delighted with 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."
Each is expected to serve half their sentence, but will remain subject to supervision and licence.