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Jury retires to consider its verdict in Connors traveller family trial

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: December 11, 2012

Bristol Crown Court

Bristol Crown Court

THE jury hearing allegations of forced labour on scores of men by a Gloucestershire family of Irish Travellers has retired to consider its verdict.

His Honour Judge Michael Longman has urged the jury of eight men and four women to consider all evidence heard over the last three months before delivering its verdict.

He was summing up at the Bristol Crown Court trial of five members of the Connors family.

All defendants have been found not guilty of the charge of servitude.

The allegations are said to have been carried out at Beggars Roost caravan park near Staverton where the men lived in run-down mobile homes.

The three-month trial was the culmination of years of work by police as part of Operation Tundra and a seven month surveillance operation.

The family is alleged to have put the men to work on drives and patios around Gloucestershire under various names, including Designer Drives & Patios, Pro Groundworks and Sofisicated Drives.

Judge Longman continued his summing up of evidence given by one of the workers rescued from Beggars Roost in March 2011.

"David Gibbons has said in his evidence that if he had enough money then he would have left the Connors long before," he said.

Police

"During his time working for the Connors, he says he felt a lot of distress and that he felt bad about himself."

He told police he was given little food and money but was instead given alcohol to feed his addiction.

Head of the family Billy Connors, 51, had a brief summary of his police interview read out in court. In his statement, he said of the workers: "There is no chains attached to them, the gates are always open.

"I have never forced anyone to work for me."

Following the arrests, a medical evaluation was made of the workers before they were interviewed by police.

Of the 20 men taken into custody for assessment at Glenfall House in Cheltenham, six left of their own accord days later. Of the 14 who remained, eight were sent to temporary accommodation at The Vron in Gloucester, four to Tewkesbury and two elsewhere.

The case continues.

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