Connors traveller family 'servitude' trial: Men kept as 'serfs'

Caravan park in Staverton
Image caption Many of the alleged victims were housed at Beggars Roost caravan park in Staverton

Five members of a travelling family forced gangs of men to work as "serfs", a court has heard.

Bristol Crown Court heard the men were forced to work at traveller sites in Gloucestershire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

The men were often homeless drifters or addicts, the court was told.

William Connors, 52, Brida (Mary) Connors, 48, their sons John, 29, and James Connors, 20, and son-in-law Miles Connors, 23, deny the charges.

The court heard victims were beaten or watched others being assaulted over "many years".

Many of them were housed in caravans at Beggars Roost site in Staverton, near Cheltenham, the jury was told.

'Humiliating tasks'

Christopher Quinlan QC, prosecuting, said the men were usually recruited at shelters for the homeless or on the streets.

"The men, who I shall refer to as the workers, were often made promises of accommodation, food and payment," he said.

"Once they had been induced the workers were taken to caravan sites which the defendants owned, or used, or were associated with.

"Once with the defendants they were trapped and the promises made on the streets were spurious, empty promises intended to entice the men to go with them for one thing - work - and there was plenty of it."

"The work was monotonous, arduous and unrelenting," he said.

"It included maintenance work on the caravan sites, canvassing, door to door selling, hard manual labour, including paving, land work, driveways and gardening.

"The hours were long and the work was hard.

"Some were ordered to perform humiliating tasks, such as emptying the buckets used as toilets by their bosses."

'Kept as servants'

Mr Quinlan said the men were sometimes paid for their work but it was "derisory and sporadic - £5 here or £10 there".

"Those in receipt of state benefits were told to hand over their benefits to their bosses," he said.

Mr Quinlan told the court that some of the men spent "many years" working for the Connors family.

"They were treated as serfs, kept as servants, held in servitude and required to work as and when demanded by their masters, their bosses," he said.

Mr Quinlan said police raided traveller sites in Staverton, Enderby in Leicestershire and Mansfield in Nottinghamshire on 22 March 2011.

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.

The trial continues.

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