Lincolnshire

Rooney traveller family jailed for modern slavery offences

Top row (l to r) Bridget Rooney, Gerald Rooney, John Rooney, John Rooney. Bottom row (l to r) Lawrence Rooney, Martin Rooney Snr, Martin Rooney, Patrick Rooney, Peter Doran Image copyright lincolnshire police
Image caption The Rooney family ran a driveway resurfacing business

Nine members of a traveller family who kept workers in squalid conditions in caravans have been jailed for modern day slavery offences.

One victim, whose ordeal spanned more than 25 years, was made to dig his own grave.

The head of the family, Martin Rooney Senior, was jailed for 10 years, while two of his sons were each jailed for more than 15 years.

The traveller family were described as "chilling in their mercilessness".

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The case at Nottingham Crown Court was part of Lincolnshire Police's Operation Pottery investigation, one of the largest investigations of its kind.

The Rooneys' victims were beaten and left without running water or toilet facilities at the Drinsey Nook site in Lincolnshire.

Beaten, abused and made to dig own grave

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Media captionThe sister of one of the victims says he was forced to dig his own grave

Sentencing Martin Rooney Senior, Timothy Spencer QC said: "You brought up your sons in a criminal culture."

The judge also compared the squalid lives of the victims to the lavish lifestyle the family enjoyed.

"It was like the gulf between medieval royalty and peasantry," he told him.

Image copyright Lincolnshire Police
Image caption The head of the family Martin Rooney Senior was jailed for 10 years

Ch Supt Chris Davison, of Lincolnshire Police, said: "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."

Mr Davison said there were potentially other victims of modern slavery in the UK and that the force "would not rest on this result".

"We are exploring five active investigations and we will continue to put any victims at the very heart of our investigations," he added.

Police began operations against members of the Rooney family in September 2014 when seven warrants were executed in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and London.

A number of victims were found and the UK Human Trafficking Centre concluded 18 men had been illegally brought to the sites.

The victims were all described as vulnerable adults, aged between 18 and 63, who were often homeless and had been picked up by the defendants from across the UK.

Image copyright Lincolnshire Police
Image caption The victims lived in squalor, police said

In one attack, a man was beaten with a shovel and left injured in a caravan for days for returning a car with no petrol.

The court also heard of one victim's terrifying ordeal which spanned more than a quarter of a century.

On one occasion, he was made to dig his own grave if he did not agree to a lifetime of servitude.

Image copyright Lincolnshire Police
Image caption The Rooneys' victims were beaten at the Drinsey Nook site in Lincolnshire

Judge Spencer also spoke of how the family used food as a means of control over their victims.

"They knew if they wanted to eat, they had to stay at Drinsey Nook," he said.

"None of the men, in my judgement, were ever truly free to leave at all."

"You stripped them of dignity and humanity and confined them to a life of drudgery".

Image copyright Lincolnshire Police
Image caption Bridget Rooney was told she had the power to stop what was happening but chose to ignore it

In a statement which was read in court, one victim said "life with the Rooneys was a living hell".

Judge Spencer told Bridget Rooney, described as the matriarch of the family, she had "the power to stop this".

She was jailed for seven years.


The 11 convicted are:

  • John Rooney, 31, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for 15 years and six months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, conspiracy to defraud, fraud by false representation, two counts of theft
  • Patrick Rooney, 31, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for 15 years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, fraud by abuse of position, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, two counts of theft
  • Bridget Rooney, 55, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for seven years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Martin Rooney, 57, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for 10 years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, unlawful wounding
  • Martin Rooney, 23, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for six years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, assault occasioning actual bodily harm
  • John Rooney, 53, of Chantry Croft, Pontefract - Jailed for five years and 10 months for two counts of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Peter Doran, 36, of Washingborough Road, Lincoln - Jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Gerard Rooney, 46, of Washingborough Road, Lincoln - Jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Lawrence Rooney, 47, of no fixed address - Currently serving a five year prison sentence and once complete, will serve another six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour
  • Martin Rooney, 35, of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield received a two year suspended sentence for two years
  • Patrick Rooney, 54, of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield received a 12 month suspended sentence for two years

Two others, Eileen Rooney, 32, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby and Nora Rooney, 31, of the same address, were both acquitted.


Image caption Janine Smith, from the Crown Prosecution Service, paid tribute to the victims

Speaking outside court after sentencing, Janine Smith, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said the sentences "reflect the level of exploitation, control and violence they exhibited and the betrayal of those they condemned to forced labour and the people they defrauded".

She added: "I hope that seeing their abusers imprisoned will be of some comfort to them and will be a suitable acknowledgement of their courage in giving evidence."

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