Traveller family guilty of forced labour

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Media captionFive members of one family have been found guilty of using forced labour

Five members of the same traveller family have been found guilty of keeping their own private workforce.

The Connors family beat their victims and forced them to work for as little as £5 a day, Bristol Crown Court heard.

William Connors, 52, Brida (Mary) Connors, 48, sons John, 29, and James, 20, and son-in-law Miles Connors, 23, will be sentenced on Monday.

Their crimes were committed in Gloucestershire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, the court was told.

Following a three-month trial, they were found guilty of conspiracy to require a person to carry out forced or compulsory labour between April 2010 and March 2011.

'Don't do this'

They also faced a second charge of conspiracy to hold another person in servitude, but the trial judge ordered the jury to find the defendants not guilty.

There were loud outbursts from members of the Connors family in the public gallery as the guilty verdicts were returned.

Family members jumped to their feet and extra security guards came into court to physically remove relatives.

Image caption William and Brida Connors drove luxury cars, including this 1988 Rolls Royce

John Connors' wife was carried from the court after trying to climb out of the public gallery into the dock.

As she left, she said: "Please, please, I'm asking you no. Don't do this."

During the trial, the court heard the Connors family would pick up the men - often homeless drifters or addicts - to work for them as labourers.

The victims lived in poor conditions in caravans on traveller sites while they worked for the Connors' paving and patio businesses.

Some of the men - called "dossers" by the Connors - had worked for the family for nearly two decades.

'Hosing down session'

William Connors was described as the head of the family and has been married to Brida for more than 30 years. They had six children together.

He was described by some of the workers as the "drill sergeant, big boss or the daddy" while his wife was the "banker", collecting the money from the forced workers' state benefits.

Some were also ordered by the family to perform tasks, such as emptying the buckets used as toilets by the family.

Image caption Those who worked for the Connors family lived in squalid conditions

The court heard that many were beaten, hit with broom handles, belts, a rake and shovel, and were punched and kicked.

On one occasion a worker had a hosepipe pushed down his throat and they were often made to strip for a "hosing down session" with freezing water.

"It caused fear in the men," said prosecutor Christopher Quinlan QC.

"Not just themselves being assaulted, but to see the others - if you see one of your colleagues being beaten, you knew what to expect.

"It was a clear and unequivocal demonstration of control and dominance of one set, the family, over another.

"If you compare and contrast the lifestyles of the workers and bosses it is like comparing a Maserati versus a clapped-out Zephyr."

'Institutionalised victims'

The court heard the men were given so little food they resorted to scavenging from dustbins at supermarkets.

They also salvaged clothing from bins and used a bucket or woodland as a toilet.

But the Connors family lived in luxury caravans fitted with top-of-the-range kitchens and flat-screen televisions.

Image caption William Connors speaking to a worker at Beggars Roost caravan park in Staverton, Gloucestershire

They also took holidays in Tenerife and Mexico and drove cars such as a Mercedes and a Rolls Royce.

They bought a caravan park for more than £500,000 and had a similar amount of money in bank accounts, the court heard.

Det Ch Insp David Sellwood said after the hearing: "The family generated significant wealth off the backs of some of the most vulnerable in society and we are delighted that they have finally been held to account.

"The rescued men had been victims of the Connors family for up to 30 years; many were 'institutionalised' and did not recognise themselves as being victims."

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