Beds, Herts & Bucks

Connors family trial: Homeless workers 'kept in servitude'

A traveller family have gone on trial for a second time accused of making large amounts of money from captive workers who were paid nothing.

Tommy Connors Senior and three of his sons deny holding the men in servitude and forcing them to work.

Luton Crown Court heard the men, who were homeless, were offered accommodation and paid work.

They were forced to lay block paving and threatened with violence if they asked for wages, the prosecution said.

The jury was told that this was a retrial of Tommy Connors Senior, 53, Tommy Junior, 27, James, 25 and Patrick, 21.

All four are charged with three counts of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude and three of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced labour.

Captive workers were kept in "Spartan accommodation" at the Green Acres caravan site near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, the court heard.

Violence threat

Prosecutor Ben Gumpert said: "Recruitment would take place at centres for the homeless, soup kitchens or simply on the street.

"These individuals have been held against their will and have been forced to work for the Connors' family without payment.

"Physical violence and the threat of such violence, whether spoken or unspoken, was used to ensure compliance with demands for work.

"The evidence suggests that very substantial amounts of money have been made by the Connors family through their exploitation of the labour of their workers."

On 11 September, 2011 police raided the site where they found 13 workers.

They ranged from those who had been recruited just the night before to men who had been working for the Connors family for 10 years.

Mr Gumpert said the defence would argue that there was no servitude, no forced labour, but rather a rough bargain which enabled men who would otherwise have wasted their lives away in drink and dependency to have meaningful lives as part of the Connors family.

"You will hear that two of the defendants Tommy Connors Senior and Patrick Connors were found guilty of some offences at a previous trial," he told the jury.

The offences are alleged to have taken place between 6 April 2010 and 11 September 2011 and involved four victims who cannot be named for legal reasons.

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