Beds, Herts & Bucks

Connors family trial: Traveller 'drove workers like slaves'

The head of a family of travellers drove his workers like "slaves", a jury has been told.

Tommy Connors Sr and three of his sons, Tommy Jr, 27, James, 25, Patrick, 21, are on trial for a second time accused of making large amounts of money from captive workers who were paid nothing.

Luton Crown Court heard the father made alleged victims work into the night on sometimes "pointless" activities.

The four accused deny holding the men in servitude and forcing them to work.

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.

'Threatened with violence'

The court heard the alleged victims, who were homeless, were offered "Spartan" accommodation on the Greenacres travellers site near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire and paid work.

But they were made to work for the family's block paving business and threatened with violence if they asked for wages or tried to leave.

On 11 September 2011 police raided the site where they found 13 workers, who ranged from those who had been recruited just the night before to men who had been working for the Connors family for 10 years.

Prosecutor Ben Gumpert said Tommy Connors Sr was the boss who drove the workers "like slaves" often until 21:00 on cleaning and painting jobs.

"Sometimes the work seemed pointless, simply to occupy the workers' time," he said.

'Caged animal'

Mr Gumpert told the jury one of the workers lived in a horsebox with 10 others and the only washing facilities were a cold water tap in the yard and a shared toilet.

Another worker allegedly told the police it was "like being an animal in a cage".

He said he was offered tarmac and gravelling work for £30 a day but, after a week, he realised he was not going to be paid.

"It is clear, that over the years there have been dozens, perhaps over a hundred, workers who have been recruited, whose labour has been exploited and who have been the subject of threats, violence and coercion," Mr Gumpert said.

He said the intimidation the Connors used meant, "although they were not always physically imprisoned, they lacked the resources, or even the will to get away from men who were corralling, exploiting and infantilising them".

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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