Kent

Ten more migrants sue Maidstone gangmaster

Gangmaster raid
Image caption Kent Police raided the premises of DJ Houghton Catching Services in 2012

The number of migrants suing a former gangmaster - in what lawyers have dubbed a "landmark modern slavery case" - has more than doubled.

Six men embarked on legal action last year - but 10 more have joined the civil claim.

The Lithuanian nationals allege Kent-based DJ Houghton Catching Services exploited them after employing a trafficker.

The Maidstone firm lost its licence after a raid by Kent Police in 2012.

It was branded "the worst UK gangmaster ever" by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).

The men, who were employed between 2008 and 2012 to catch birds in chicken houses and load them on to trucks bound for processing plants, alleged they were forced to work without a bed, a shower or adequate food for days at a time.

Image caption Aurimas claimed he was physically abused

Aurimas, who worked for the company at the age of 19 and claims he was physically abused, said: "The working conditions were horrible. Nothing was done was done fairly. We were treated like dogs."

The company in Wheelers Lane, Maidstone, was raided by Kent Police in 2012 and the GLA revoked its licence in the October of that year.

DJ Houghton Catching Services withdrew an appeal against the decision to revoke the licence in 2014.

Last year, the firm's director and secretary, Darrell Houghton and Jacqueline Judge, filed a formal defence in the High Court against the group, but lawyers will attempt to throw out the defence on 11 May.

Lawyers Leigh Day, acting for the migrants, have described the proceedings as a landmark modern slavery case.

Mr Houghton and Ms Judge have not commented but have previously denied any wrongdoing.

No criminal charges were brought against them.

Kent Police said a man who remains wanted in connection with the case, Edikas Mankevicius, is believed to be in Lithuania but a request for a European Arrest Warrant was not authorised

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