Connors family trial: Men could come and go 'at will'

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The head of a traveller family that denies making captive vulnerable men work unpaid told a court they could come and go at any time.

Tommy Connors Sr and three of his sons deny holding the men in servitude.

Luton Crown Court had earlier heard the homeless men were offered accommodation but threatened with violence if they asked for wages.

They worked laying block paving but Mr Connors said: "I never made anyone stay on site that didn't want to."

The jury was told that this was a retrial of Tommy Connors Sr, 53, Tommy Jr, 27, James, 25 and Patrick, 21.

All four are charged with three counts of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude and three of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced labour.

Mr Connors Sr's barrister Lewis Power asked him if he ever compelled any of the men to remain on the site through fear of retribution.

Police raid

Mr Connors Sr denied the accusation and, following legal submissions, was formally acquitted of one charge of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude and one charge of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced labour.

He remains on trial facing further conspiracy charges.

The offences are alleged to have taken place between 6 April 2010 and 11 September 2011 and involved four victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The father and his sons are accused of making large amounts of money exploiting the men recruited men from homeless centres, soup kitchens and off the street.

In September 2011 police raided Green Acres Caravan site near Leighton Buzzard and found 13 "captive and vulnerable" workers living in "Spartan" accommodation.

They ranged from those who had been recruited just the night before, to men who had been working for the Connors family for 10 years.

Driven to hospital

The jury was told Mr Connors Sr was referred to as Pa or Lyncham and was "the main man" and "the boss of everyone".

Asked about an alleged victim who later died Mr Connors said he had paid for a grave and headstone for him.

He met one alleged victim outside a fish and chip shop in Stoke on Trent.

"I gave him a roof over his head. I would give him £20 or £30 here and there," he said.

When the man suffered an asthma attack he drove him to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital, he claimed.

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