Five convicted for forced labour conspiracy

14/12/2012

Today, a jury at Bristol Crown Court have returned guilty verdicts for charges of forced labour against five members of the same family.

William Connors, 51,  Breda Connors, 48,  John Connors, 29 and James Connors, 20, all formerly of Gloucester Road in Staverton and Miles Connors, 24 formerly of Bowling Back Lane in Bradford; were all found guilty of conspiring to require other persons to perform forced or compulsory labour.

Ann Reddrop, head of the CPS South West Complex Case Unit said: "The jurys verdicts conclude a lengthy investigation into the criminal activities of the Connors family and their punitive relationship with those whom they forced to work for them.

"The CPS has worked closely with DCI Selwood and his team at Gloucestershire Constabulary since March 2011 when the Police were about to arrest the offenders.

"The five members of the Connors family who stood trial were charged with offences involving the serious mistreatment of people who, because of their personal circumstances, had little option but to continue to remain with the offenders. The defendants used violence to prevent the victims leaving them or from alerting the authorities to their treatment. They forced them to undertake physically demanding work for long periods. They did not pay them for their work and took advantage of their vulnerable situations.

"There was a very stark contrast in living conditions between offender and victim and the way in which the offenders materially benefited from their criminal activities will be the subject of further applications for confiscation by the Crown under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2003

"This case illustrates the way the CPS and police work together to secure justice in even the most difficult circumstances."

The charges relate to the period between 5 April 2010 and 23 March 2011, when the Connors exploited a number of victims, many of whom were perceived as vulnerable members of society, forcing them to perform a range of building and manual labour jobs across the country. When paid they received only a pittance and were subject to assaults, theft of benefits, ill-treatment and exploitation. Many of the victims were housed in squalid conditions in caravans at sites including Beggars Roost in Cheltenham.

A year-long investigation including a five month surveillance operation by Gloucestershire Constabulary culminated in March 2011 when officers carried out warrants at sites in Gloucestershire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire and 19 people were rescued.

Lead officer for Operation Tundra David Sellwood said: "This was the first investigation of its kind nationally and we faced unique challenges. 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. 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."