Bedfordshire: Four Travellers Charged After ‘Slaves’ Find: UPDATED

12 Sep

Travellers Charged After ‘Slavery’ Find: UPDATED:

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Four men have been charged with slavery offences relating to four people found at a travellers’ site in Bedfordshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.

The men are all from the same family of travellers.

www.stopthetraffik.org

Travellers Charged After 'Slavery' Find

NEWS UPDATE:

Police at the Greenacres caravan site in Bedfordshire.

Police at the Greenacres caravan site in Bedfordshire

Four men have been charged with slavery offences relating to four people found at a traveller’s site, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The men, all from the same family of travellers, are charged with conspiracy to holding a person in servitude and requiring them to perform forced labour.

The charges follow an investigation by the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit and relate to alleged offences against four male victims at the Greenacres travellers’ site in Bedfordshire.

The CPS named the men charged as Tommy Connors, 30, Patrick Connors, 19, James (Big Jim) Connors, 34, and James (Jimmy) Connors, 23, all of Greenacres caravan site, in Great Billington, Leighton Buzzard.

Adrian Roberts, head of the CPS Thames and Chiltern Complex Casework Unit, said: “These charges relate to four victims who allege they have been held against their will and forced to live and work like slaves.

“Police investigations into other offences relating to other potential victims at Greenacres are ongoing, further to the police raid on Sunday, September 11.”

The four men will appear at Luton Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday

NEWS UPDATE:

Four men will appear in court today in Britain charged with slavery offences relating to four people found at a travellers’ site.

The four: Tommy Connors (30), Patrick Connors (19), James Connors (34), and James Connors (23), all with addresses at the Greenacres caravan site at Little Billington, were yesterday charged with conspiracy to hold a person in servitude and requiring them to perform forced labour.

The four will appear in court in Luton today.

The charges follow an investigation by the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit and relate to alleged offences against four men at the Greenacres travellers’ site in Bedfordshire.

The four defendants all live at the site, in Great Billington, Leighton Buzzard, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

A fifth person who was arrested alongside the men on Sunday morning – a heavily pregnant woman – was released on bail and will be questioned further after the birth of her child, Bedfordshire Police said.

Last night’s charges, made by the police on the direction of the Crown Prosecution Service, cover just four of the 24 British, Polish, Latvian and Lithuanian men who were taken away by the police after Sunday’s raid. “Police investigations into other offences relating to other potential victims at Greenacres are ongoing,” said Adrian Roberts of the prosecution service.

Nine of the 24 men taken away on Sunday have refused to co-operate with the investigation, while one of them returned to live at the site last night, saying that the police action was “ridiculous”.

Yesterday, Travellers living at the park angrily denied that the men had been slaves, insisting they had paid them £30 a day to work laying tarmac and clearing rubble, and had given them accommodation.

However, the accommodation was appalling, with some of the men living four-to-a-room in crowded, dilapidated caravans, while others had been seen sleeping in horseboxes and kennels by police during weeks of covert surveillance.

The dawn raid took place on Sunday as it was the only day the men were not taken off-site to work. Police say they were forced, instead, to clean the heavily secured caravan park.

It is understood that most of the alleged slaves are suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction. One of them came to Greenacres after he was approached by Travellers while he sat on a bridge readying to kill himself. Police say the men were promised £80 a day for work.

Before 2010 police struggled to prosecute allegations of slavery because they were required to use anti-trafficking laws, assault or charges of false imprisonment – none of them would cover the allegations made against Greenacres.

Under Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, a person found guilty of holding someone in domestic servitude could face up to 14 years in jail, while a conviction for forced labour brings a seven-year penalty.

The head of Anti-Slavery International, Aidan McQuade said he believed that up to 3,000 people are enslaved in the United Kingdom at any one time: “I was shocked [by the Greenacres allegations], but I was not surprised,” he said.

Fifteen of the released men continued yesterday to get medical treatment from the Red Cross, though it remains to be seen if they will make formal statements. Police say, however, that they are receiving co-operation.

A successful prosecution will depend on the police being able to prove the men were ill-treated, that their movements were restricted, that they suffered poor accommodation and food and were forcibly isolated from others.

Related

Four Irish Travellers charged with slavery offences | 13/09/2011

Kept prisoner through mix of threats and supply of ‘cider and other things’ | 13/09/2011

Lengthy intelligence work led to arrests of Travellers on suspicion of slavery | 12/09/2011

Travellers face slavery charges as UK police raid site at dawn | 12/09/2011

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