Connors Family Found Guilty Of Forced Labour

Connors Family Found Guilty Of Forced Labour

Five members of the same traveller family who made their staff perform humiliating tasks have been found guilty of forced labour.

William Connors, 52, his wife Mary, 48, their sons John, 29, and James, 20, and their son-in-law Miles Connors, 24, were all convicted of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour between April 2010 and March 2011.

Bristol Crown Court heard how the Connors would pick up the men - many of whom were homeless or drug addicts - to work for them as labourers.

Jurors were told the victims lived in squalid caravans on traveller sites as they moved around the country working on the Connors' paving and patio businesses.

Prosecutors said the men were paid as little as £5 a day for their work, which included emptying the buckets used as toilets by their bosses, and were forced to scavenge from dustbins for food.

Some workers were beaten with broom handles, belts, a rake and a shovel, and one had a hosepipe forced down his throat, it was claimed.

By contrast, the court heard, their employers lived in large, well-equipped caravans, enjoyed holidays in Dubai, Mexico and the Caribbean and drove luxury cars, including a Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes A-Class and a Mini convertible.

Prosecutor Christopher Quinlan QC said: "It was a clear and unequivocal demonstration of control and dominance of one set - the family - over another.

"If you compare and contrast the lifestyles of the workers and bosses it is like comparing a Maserati with a clapped-out Zephyr."

Police began investigating the Connors following the discovery of a worker's decomposed body in a garden shed close to one of the family's caravan sites.

A fellow worker contacted officers in 2009 to say he had been recruited by William and Mary while living on the streets of Cheltenham.

He told detectives he had his identity documents taken from him, was rarely paid, received little food and lived with other workers in the same situation.

When the Connors family was placed under covert surveillance the following year, police recorded evidence of the men being assaulted.

Caravan sites in Gloucestershire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire were raided in March 2011 and 19 men were rescued.

The Connors said their workers were "free agents" who were able to come and go as they pleased.

William and Mary insisted they were "good Samaritans" who provided vulnerable people with food, work and accommodation.

All five defendants had faced a second charge of conspiracy to hold another person in servitude but the judge ordered the jury to find them not guilty of that offence.

They are due to be sentenced on Monday.