NEWS & RESOURCES

Traveller family sentenced for forcing vulnerable people into slavery

Eleven members of a Lincolnshire traveller family have received convictions for forcing vulnerable people to work for them. The gang targeted homeless people and those with learning disabilities or drug and alcohol problems. The 18 victims had to work for the Rooney family for little or no wages. They also had to live in shocking conditions.

The police investigation found the Rooney family had enjoyed an array of luxuries, from expensive cars and exotic holidays to cosmetic surgery. All of these luxuries were gained as a result of the hard work of their victims who were all men, aged between 18 and 63. The victims were finally freed following raids by the National Crime Agency and Lincolnshire Police in 2014. One of them had worked for the family for 26 years.

Targeted vulnerable people

Rooney family members would look for victims in hostels, on the streets and in shelters. They’d offer them work, in return for food and accommodation; but these The workers earned little or no money and the gang regularly gave their victims drugs and alcohol to keep them under their control. They also threatened them with violence.  The workers were made to repair properties and tarmac drives for the Rooney business. They were also forced to live in dirty, run-down caravans or stables. These places had little or no access to heating, water or toilets. When they worked, the victims were not given safety equipment or the appropriate protective clothing.

Punishments

The police revealed that the victims often went hungry. They were often only given the family’s left-overs, despite working long hours on hard, manual tasks. If any of the victims complained, the family would use threats and violence, which included punishment in the form of beatings. The victims were also denied any medical help to treat their ailments and injuries. The Rooney family would tell the workers that they still owed them money if they did complain. They’d tell them they expected more labour from them to pay off their debts.  With their increasingly tight hold over their workers, the family would empty the workers’ bank accounts, using  the money to pay for things like gym memberships and building materials for the business.

Police said that unsurprisingly, the impact on the victims was severe. Many continue to suffer mental and physical torment following their horrendous ordeal.

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