Family of travellers forced men to work as "serfs", court told
Five members of the same traveller family, who were arrested after police raided sites in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Gloucestershire kept their own “private workforce” to use as they pleased, a court has heard.
The men – often homeless drifters or addicts – lived in caravans on traveller sites across the country and were forced to work as “serfs”.
Many were beaten or watched others being assaulted over “many years”, Bristol Crown Court heard.
Prosecutors allege William Connors, 52, his wife Mary, 48, their sons John, 29, and James, 20, and their son-in-law Miles Connors, 23, were the “bosses” who ran the enterprise.
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The defendants all deny charges of conspiracy to hold another person in servitude and conspiracy to require a person to carry out forced or compulsory labour.
Christopher Quinlan QC, prosecuting, told jurors at the start of the trial: “The prosecution case against them is that they acted together to pursue an arrangement which each of them was party. The arrangement was to hold in captivity and servitude men who were forced to work about their premises and their businesses.
“They located and induced men, vulnerable by their circumstances and lifestyle, often homeless drifters, addicts, men isolated from their families and disconnected from society to work for them.”
Mr Quinlan said the enterprise came to an end when police raided traveller sites in Enderby in Leicestershire, Staverton in Gloucestershire, and Mansfield, Nottinghamshire on March 22, 2011.
ll the defendants, except James Connors, were arrested that morning, the court heard. James Connors was arrested the following September by police.
The jury was told they will hear evidence from the workers who will describe their lives with the defendants, one of whom believed he had lived with them for 18 years.
The trial continues.