'Slavery' Pair Jailed

8 January 2013, 10:36 | Updated: 8 January 2013, 12:43

Two travellers, including one from Bedfordshire, have been jailed for exploiting vulnerable homeless men and forced them to work long hours for no pay.

The men were also forced to live in tents and suffer beatings at a camp in Hampshire.

Victor Romain, 56, and Christopher Groombridge, 32, suffered at the hands of John Connors and his brother-in-law William (Billy) Connors for around five months.

The men, who were homeless or had drink problems, were approached by the Connors family and told they could work laying block paving or tarmac for £30 or £40-a-day and they would also be given food and accommodation.

But instead they received little cash for up to 80 hours' work a week with no health and safety training nor the proper tools, Southampton Crown Court was told.

Both men pleaded guilty to requiring their victims to perform forced or compulsory labour between April 2010 and June 2011, on the eve of their retrial.

John Connors, 31, from Little Billington, Leighton Buzzard, was sentenced to 40 months in prison and William Connors, 38, from Bestwood Road, Nottingham, was jailed for 30 months.

They had previously denied the charges and other more serious counts of holding the men in slavery or servitude and not guilty verdicts were ordered on these counts.

The court heard the victims were beaten or threatened with violence, discouraged from speaking to family or the public and had their heads shaved.

When police raided where they were living at an illegal traveller camp in Hamble, Hampshire, in June 2011 the men were living in tents with no running water and had to use the woods to go to the toilet.

Meanwhile, the defendants were living in luxury caravans with John Connors owning a convertible car worth £45,000, Charles Thomas, prosecuting, said.