Slavery case Lopresti ice cream boss 'exploited staff'

Salvatore Lopresti
Image caption Salvatore Lopresti has been made the subject of a Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order

The boss of a popular ice cream firm accused of slavery offences had a history of making workers endure poor conditions, it has been claimed.

Salvatore "Sam" Lopresti, 75, of Lopresti Ice Cream in Bristol, has been made the subject of a Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order (STRO).

He was recently ruled unfit to stand trial on assault and modern slavery charges, because he has dementia.

However, an investigation heard claims of exploitative treatment of staff.

The STRO means Mr Lopresti cannot employ staff or deal with wages or disciplinary action.

'Power and status'

The Bristol Cable was the first to raise concerns in 2016, when an undercover journalist worked for below the minimum wage.

Other former employees have since said they worked long hours, with low pay, and some lived in poor conditions in properties owned by Mr Lopresti.

The media co-operative said he had "amassed a significant amount of money, power and also status" within the city.

"He then exploited that in a way, with impunity for years and years and years," said Adam Cantwell-Corn, of the Cable.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The Lopresti Ice Cream business is well-known in Bristol

One former employee, who described himself as a "volunteer worker", said he was paid between £10 and £30 a week, to cover food and bills.

Another lived in a run-down flat owned by Mr Lopresti, which had no ventilation or insulation.

Det Con Dale Morgan, of Avon and Somerset Police, described the conditions as "not suitable for human accommodation".

Mr Lopresti owns many properties in the city, and while some former tenants were happy, many told of mouldy, damp properties and unannounced visits involving threats of violence.

A former tenant, who did not want to be named, told the BBC: "I was asleep and heard this really loud banging on the door.

"I opened the door and he [Mr Lopresti] starts to scream at me about topping up the gas meter."

He said when he objected, Mr Lopresti threatened to "take the door off the hinges" and "take my head off".

Bristol Cable said many former workers were migrants "exploited" by Mr Lopresti who had their vision of a better life in the UK "totally shattered".

Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order

  • The Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order (STRO) was introduced by The Modern Slavery Act 2015
  • It can be made by a court which is satisfied an individual defendant may commit a slavery or human trafficking offence even if they have not been convicted
  • They are intended to allow law enforcement agencies to control the behaviour of individuals who may cause harm through committing slavery and human trafficking offences

Mr Lopresti had previously been charged with requiring a person to perform forced labour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

He had denied the criminal charges against him but his family said he did not oppose the STRO.

They added that he no longer played an active part in the business - and did not accept the truth of all the allegations.

The company is owned by relatives of Tory MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke, Jack Lopresti.

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