March gangmaster Martyn Slender admits underpaying migrant workers

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Media captionMartyn Slender paid some Latvians less than half the national minimum wage

A gangmaster has admitted deliberately destroying the payslips of Eastern European workers in Cambridgeshire in order to underpay them.

Martyn Slender, 45, from March, pleaded guilty at Peterborough Magistrates' Court to contravening the Gangmasters Licensing Act by using unlicensed suppliers.

He was given a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for a year.

His company Slender Contracting Ltd was closed down in January.

The judge also ordered him to complete 200 hours' unpaid work in the community.

'Manufactured timesheets'

Slender was one of a number of people arrested in Operation Endeavour in October after the BBC investigated alleged migrant worker exploitation in the Fens.

The court heard one Latvian worker was employed by Slender for 20 hours over two days, but after deductions his pay packet showed a debt.

On another occasion the same man was paid £150 for a 50-hour week, which is less than half the national minimum wage.

Giles Beaumont, for the prosecution, said Slender "accepted he had deliberately destroyed and manufactured some timesheets to underpay workers".

"He said he was doing this because of his financial situation," he added.

Paul Croker, defending, said Slender's company had collapsed and he was relying on friends and family to live.

He said only a small number of the workers' timesheets had been destroyed by his client.

But Judge Ken Sheraton said the offence was so serious it merited a prison sentence.

However, the sentence was suspended because Slender had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, was of previous good character, and had co-operated with the police, he said.

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