FIVE members of the same family have been convicted of a conspiracy which saw vulnerable people being forced to work for them.
William Connors, 51, Breda Connors, 48, John Connors, 29 and James Connors, 20, all formerly of Gloucester Road in Staverton and Miles Connors, 24 and formerly of Bowling Back Lane in Bradford; were all found guilty today (Friday December 14) at Bristol Crown Court of conspiring with each other to require other persons to perform forced or compulsory labour.
They will all be sentenced on Monday (December 17).
The charges relate to the period between April 5 2010 and March 23 2011, when the Connors were using a number of victims, many of whom were vulnerable members of society who had been picked up off the streets, to perform a range of building and manual labour jobs across the country.
Many of the victims were housed in squalid conditions in caravans at sites including Beggars Roost in Cheltenham. When paid they received only a pittance and were subject to assaults, theft of benefits, ill-treatment and exploitation.
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 vulnerable 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".
Ann Reddrop, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service South West Complex Casework Unit said: “The jury’s 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.
“CPS has worked closely with DCI Sellwood and his team at Gloucestershire Constabulary since March 2011 when the Police were about to arrest the offenders.
“The 5 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.”