Nine members of a traveller family found guilty of modern day slavery have been sentenced to a total of almost 80 years in prison.
The head of the family, Martin Rooney, 57, was jailed for 10 years and nine months for offences which included the keeping of one man in ‘truly shocking’ conditions for decades.
Two of his sons were each jailed for more than 15 years, as a court heard the family, who ran a driveway resurfacing company in Lincolnshire, were ‘chilling in their mercilessness’.
A total of 11 defendants were convicted of offences following a series of linked trials relating to modern slavery and fraud at Nottingham Crown Court.
The court heard that the family’s victims were beaten and forced to live without running water or toilet facilities at the Drinsey Nook site in Saxilby, Lincolnshire.
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Rooney was jailed after being convicted of wounding and conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
Other members of the Rooney family were given custodial sentences ranging from six to 15 years, while two received suspended sentences.
Sentencing Mr Rooney, Timothy Spencer QC, told him: ‘You brought up your sons in a criminal culture.’
He said the Rooneys lived in luxury while their victims suffered in squalor.
‘It was like the gulf between medieval royalty and peasantry,’ he said.
All the family’s victims were described as extremely vulnerable, including several who had learning disabilities and mental health issues, and were estranged from their families.
The court heard that in one incident, a victim was made to dig his own grave by the family if he did not agree to be their slave.
Commenting on the sentences, Chief Superintendent Chris Davison, head of crime for Lincolnshire Police, said: ‘The severity of these crimes is underlined by the sentences imposed by the judge.
‘The victims will never get the years back that were taken away from them but I hope this provides them with some comfort that justice has been served and demonstrates that we will do everything in our power to try and stop others suffering in the ways that they did.’
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs supported Lincolnshire Police from the start of the investigation, identifying income tax, VAT and Tax Credit offences after analysing the family’s illegal trading activities.
Simon York, director, fraud investigation service, HMRC, said: ‘These people lived a life of luxury by exploiting and abusing highly vulnerable individuals.
‘They stripped them of their humanity, forcing them to live and work in terrible conditions.’