Family jailed over forced labour
Also working on the family business were sons John and James - known as Johnny and Jimmy - and Miles Connors, known as Miley, who is married to William and Mary’s daughter Bridget.
Police began investigating the Connors family following the discovery of the body of worker Christopher Nicholls (40), in 2008.
The introduction of the Coroners and Justice Act in April 2010 created offences of conspiracy to hold another person in servitude and conspiracy to require a person to carry out forced or compulsory labour.
The Connors were placed under covert surveillance in August 2010 and police recorded evidence of the men being assaulted.
The enterprise came to an end when police raided sites in Staverton, Enderby in Leicestershire and Mansfield in Nottinghamshire on March 22nd, 2011.
The Connors family maintained the men were “free agents” able to come and go as they pleased, and William and Mary suggested they acted as “good Samaritans” by providing them with food, work and accommodation.
During his sentencing, the judge said the workers showed outstanding qualities of resilience, basic decency and loyalty.
“The difference between the lifestyles of the defendants and the workers was marked: the work done reaped rich rewards for the Connors family, who lived luxuriously in caravans or houses; the workers whose labour helped to generate these rewards were paid, when they were paid at all, a pittance.
“Many of the workers were promised, when they were picked up, a regular income. What was offered largely failed to materialise and payment was irregular and meagre, covering only the most basic necessities.
“The accommodation provided was, for the most part, sub-standard. Although some workers spoke of their bosses as friends, the status of the workers as compared to the bosses was so inferior as to render the relationship between them unrecognisable as friendship by normal standards.
“Workers spoke of violence being meted out by certain bosses against workers on different occasions but the evidence did not suggest that violence was regularly used against workers and rarely during the indictment period. I am, however, satisfied, that such violence as there was not only helped to define and emphasise the unequal relationship between bosses and workers but also served to ensure that the workers knew there was a line that was not to be crossed.”
Judge Longman said some of the workers considered themselves “better off” working for the Connors than the alternative of being on the streets.
“But the indignity of unemployment was replaced by the degradation that accompanied their inferior status and the freedoms and independence that usually accompany employment were largely absent,” he said.
“I am satisfied that the efforts made by members of the Connors family to wean the workers off the alcohol to which they had become addicted were not altruistic — but were rather to benefit themselves so that those recruited could become a source of cheap labour for them.”