Couple Jailed For 15 Year For Slavery Offences

11 July 2012, 16:09 | Updated: 12 July 2012, 15:27

A husband and wife from an Irish Traveller family have been jailed after being convicted of modern day slavery charges

James John Connors, 34, known as Big Jim, was sentenced to 11 years  and his wife Josie, 31, jailed for 4 years.

They were found guilty in first the slavery case of its kind in this country for more than 200 years.

They were convicted for holding two men in servitude and forcing them to carry out forced labour in the block paving and ground work business for little or no money. 

Big Jim was also convicted of assaulting the man over a long period.

Jailing them Judge Michael Kay QC said the couple had "ruthlessly exploited the men for pure greed."

One victim, a former window cleaner, told the court he was locked in the boot of a car and made to sing 'How much is that doggy in the window?' and 'Bob the Builder' to Josie's children.

He fled in July last year, alerting the police to the condition of the other man.

The men lived in squalid concentration camp-lie  conditions at the Green Acres travellers site at Little Billington, Leighton Buzzard.

The other victim was an alcoholic when he was picked up at a service station in the Midlands and put to work. 

He described Big Jim as a "very nasty and violent man" who assaulted him. 

He was beaten with a broom handle on one occasion after smashing a crystal vase belonging to Josie. 

He was forced to work while in plaster having broken his heel when he fell through a roof.

The court heard that if the men were not working on driveways and patios, or out canvassing they were forced to carry out menial tasks such as cleaning the couple's caravan or sweeping the yard at the site.

Four other defendants face a retrial next year on charges of holding men in servitude and making them carry out forced labour. Two have been bailed and two remanded in custody.