Lincolnshire

Rooney gang slavery victim 'chased' over £165 fine for forced crime

Top row (l to r) Gerald Rooney, John Rooney, John Rooney, Lawrence Rooney, Martin Rooney Jr. Bottom row (l to r) Martin Rooney Snr, Martin Rooney, Patrick Rooney, Patrick Rooney, Peter Doran, Bridget Rooney Image copyright Lincolnshire Police
Image caption The Rooney family, clockwise left to right: Gerald Rooney, John Rooney, John Rooney, Lawrence Rooney, Martin Rooney, Bridget Rooney, Peter Doran, Patrick Rooney, Patrick Rooney, Martin Rooney, Martin Rooney Snr

A man held as a slave in Lincolnshire for 26 years is being chased over a £165 fine for a crime he was forced to commit by his captors.

Eleven members of the Rooney family were jailed for modern slavery offences at Nottingham Crown Court in September.

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted in 2012 at Leeds Magistrates Court of stealing metal from a nightclub in 2011.

The Home Office said it was "urgently investigating this case".

"I feel it's an absolute injustice," his sister said.

Following the 2015 Modern Day Slavery Act, enslaved victims who commit a crime can have their convictions quashed.

However, the offence by the Rooneys' victim was committed before the act came into force.

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

The man, who was made to dig his own grave by the Rooneys, is "very upset and stressed" by the regular letters he receives from the courts, his sister told the BBC.

"I think it's quite incredulous actually that a court is chasing him some seven years later for this fine," she said.

"He's currently living on benefits, so he doesn't have a lot of money, and now he's being forced to pay for this fine out of his benefits."

Image copyright Lincolnshire Police
Image caption Animal faeces were found inside the workers' squalid accommodation

Kevin Hyland, the departing Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said slavery victims who were convicted before the law was introduced "should be provided with the opportunity to have those convictions quashed".

According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), the man was arrested and charged for burglary with intent to steal from Brummells Night Club in Leeds in October 2011. He was given a two-year conditional discharge and fined in his absence.

The victim, who has learning difficulties, was one of 18 men kept in squalid conditions in caravans and made to work for little or no wages by the Rooney gang, while the perpetrators lived a life of lavish luxury.

Slaves were beaten and left without running water or toilet facilities at the Drinsey Nook site.

The woman said her brother was still waiting for a decision from the courts on criminal compensation.

Image copyright Lincolnshire Police
Image caption The caravans where the men stayed had no running water or toilet facilities, detectives said

Police began operations against the Rooney gang in September 2014.

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.

Lincolnshire Police said it "made repeated attempts over the last three months to have this matter resolved" but its efforts were unsuccessful.

A Home Office statement said it was "urgently investigating this case" and "any potential deductions have been suspended".

The Ministry of Justice has been approached for a comment.

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