Irish Travellers jailed for forced labour offences
Tommy Connors snr (53) was jailed for eight years and his son Patrick Connors (21) was jailed for five years
Tommy Connors Senior (53,left), who was jailed for eight years and his son Patrick Connors (21), for five years at Luton Crown Court, Bedfordshire. The judge said over the years, hundreds of vulnerable workers had been recruited by Connors and would have been subject to threats of violence and intimidation if they wanted to leave. Photograph: PA
The head of a family of Irish Travellers and his son were jailed for eight years and five years respectively yesterday at Luton Crown Court for keeping two vulnerable men captive and forcing them to work for no wages.
Tommy Connors snr (53) was said to have driven the workers that he recruited like “slaves” and, in the process, made huge amounts of money.
At the end of a month-long trial today, he was jailed for eight years and his son Patrick Connors (21) was jailed for five years
A jury failed to reach verdicts on his two other sons, Tommy jnr (27) and James (25), and the prosecution formally offered no evidence against them.
Passing sentence on the father, Judge Michael Kay said he had targeted the men who were “homeless or addicted and isolated”. Men, often out of work and homeless, even alcoholics, would be recruited at soup kitchens and off the street with the promise of paid work, food and lodgings.
“It was a monstrous and callous deceit,” he told the father.
The judge said over the years, hundreds of vulnerable workers had been recruited by Connors and would have been subject to threats of violence and intimidation if they wanted to leave. Sentencing them, Judge Kay said: “The way they brutally manipulated and exploited men is pure evil. Their disdain for the dignity of others is shocking. They were not Good Samaritans but violent, cold, hard exploiters.”
Degraded and manipulated
Many had managed to flee once they realised they had been duped by Connors, but the judge said a small number had been so degraded and manipulated by him they had not been able to summon the courage to take matters into their own hands and run away.
The judge acknowledged that for Patrick Connors, keeping vulnerable workers and exploiting them had been a way of life he had been born into.
During the trial at Luton crown court, the jury heard that after going off with the family, recruited workers were held in “Spartan” conditions on a Bedfordshire Travellers’ site where married Connors and his sons and their families all lived in luxury.
The workers were immediately put to work doing back- breaking block paving work and laying tarmac and gravel, but were not paid and, with the constant threat of violence, not allowed to leave.
Tommy Connors and his son Patrick were sentenced yesterday for offences they were found guilty of last July of conspiring to hold a person in servitude and conspiring to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour. The charges involved two different workers and they were also convicted at the time of assaulting them occasioning them actual bodily harm. Because the jury failed to agree on further charges they were not sentenced until a retrial had been held.
That trial started earlier this year with the four accused all pleading not guilty to three charges of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude and three of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced labour.