Four members of a traveller family were yesterday found guilty of forcing men into servitude in a rare case of modern-day slavery.
The men, Tommy Senior, James John, Patrick and Josie Connors were convicted at Luton Crown Court of exploiting the homeless men for financial gain at their traveller community site at Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.
The slavery racket was uncovered last September when some 250 officers raided the Green Acres traveller community.
There they found men who were referred to as 'workers' living in squalid conditions in caravans and sheds. One man was found in his own excrement amid scenes which one worker described as like being in a concentration camp.
The men were all destitute, recruited off the streets or from homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the local area. They were offered work in the Connors' family paving business in return for accommodation, food and a small salary.
The reality was very different from what they could have imagined: the men were forced to shave their heads and were in fact fed so little that many were malnourished and one 'worker' had developed scurvy. They washed in cold water and were paid little or no money for working 19 hours a day, six days a week.
Frances Oldham, for the prosecution, told the court how violence was routinely used against the men.
"Physical violence and the threat of such violence, whether spoken or unspoken, was regularly used to ensure compliance with demands for work, to stopping any attempt to claim the promised wages and to instil a fear of retribution if any worker attempted to escape the clutches of the Connors family," he said.
The four men were found guilty of charges of servitude and forced labour under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. One of the men, James John, was also found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Three others accused were acquitted of all charges.
Traveller family guilty of forcing homeless men into 'slavery' (The Telegraph)