South East Wales

Rumney slavery claims 'out of gangster show The Sopranos'

Cardiff Crown Court Image copyright Google

Claims two men were forced into labour, beaten and hunted down were described as "fantastical" with elements taken from gangster show The Sopranos.

Four members of the Connors family from Rumney, Cardiff, deny allegations from 2010 to 2013 at the city's crown court.

They are accused of forcing Michael Hughes and another man referred to as Mr K to work for tiny sums.

Defence barristers said the men kept coming back for work to sustain their drink and drug habits.

Prosecutor John Hipkin said Patrick Joseph Connors, 59, ran a driveway resurfacing and building firm, targeting "vulnerable" victims using "inflated" prices.

He is on trial alongside Patrick Dean Connors, 39, William Connors, 36, and his son-in-law Lee Carbis, 34.

The court previously heard the alleged victims were paid £10 a day or less, sometimes in the form of alcohol or tobacco and were beaten or threatened if they did not follow orders.

But Kevin Seal, defending Patrick Dean Connors, said: "This is not a case of them being shackled and somebody standing over them with a whip.

"They had access to shops, pubs and drug dealers in the case of Mr K."

'Sopranos sketch'

While he admitted they did not live in four star accommodation, he said: "This is the lifestyle of somebody in the throes of, if not an addiction, then a longstanding reliance on alcohol".

He described the allegations as "fantastical", saying Mr K's claim he was kidnapped and intimidated by a senior gang member "like a Sopranos-type sketch."

Defending Mr Carbis, Hashim Salmman said his client was friends with Mr Hughes to the extent he invited him to his wedding and let him borrow his Cardiff City season ticket.

"Gestures like this are not bandied around cheaply," he said.

On cross examination, Mr Hughes accepted that Mr Carbis bought him food at lunchtime and gave him £200 to go on holiday.

"They were friends on social media, spent time together outside of work, on occasion went together for a drink after work and Mr Hughes would refer to Mr Carbis as 'bruv'," Mr Salmman added.

Earlier in the trial, the jury were shown photos of Mr Hughes on family holidays in Tunisia and Benidorm, something Mr Salmman said he could not have afforded if his version of events was accurate.

He said: "How does the man you see in these photographs fit with the picture the prosecution has tried to paint- a cruel tale of woe, removal of independent will and despair?"

Forced labour

Terence Woods, defending William Connors, said by the time Mr Hughes worked for his client, he had moved away from the farm.

"He has chosen to stay in this area and he was earning cash in hand- up to £50 a day- so it would appear there is a pretty steady supply of work," he said.

All four defendants deny one count of requiring another person to perform forced or compulsory labour between 2010 and 2013.

Patrick Joseph Connors denies eight counts of causing actual bodily harm, four of kidnap and one of conspiracy to kidnap.

Elder son Patrick Dean Connors denies kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap.

William Connors denies causing actual bodily harm between 2009 and 2013.

Mr Carbis also denies one count of kidnap between 2001 and 2002.

The trial continues.

Related Topics