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'Pure Evil': Pair Sentenced For Slavery
A husband and wife who were found guilty of keeping two people as modern slaves and forcing them to work for no pay have been jailed.
John James Connors was jailed for a total of 11 years and his wife Josie was sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted yesterday at Luton Crown Court.
Passing sentence the judge told the couple that what they had done was "pure evil".
The ruling judge said: "It is clear to me that James John Connors realised that there was a source of cheap labour available in our towns and cities.
"The homeless, addicted and isolated men who sleep rough and beg on the streets were potential workers who could be exploited for financial gain.
"These men were offered the prospect of money, food and accommodation in return for work. The promise of pay in return for work was a monstrous and callous deceit."
They were made to work long hours in the family's paving business six days a week, on Sundays they were expected to clean their master's yard and luxurious home.
Many of the people they recruited managed to escape, but some were so "brutalised" by threats, beatings and a combination of squalid accommodation and little food, that they effectively "lost their independence of will to escape".
The couple claimed that the prosecution was founded on racism against travellers, who had a tradition of recruiting people to perform casual labour in return for food and accommodation.
Passing sentence, however, the Judge dismissed this, stating: "The truth is this is not about racism but a human being's capacity to be inhuman to a fellow human being."
One of the men kept as a slave by James John and Josie had been held by them for seven years. He was an alcoholic and was picked up by them as he contemplated suicide by the side of a motorway.
The man had never had a day off, was not paid for any of his work and was beaten and "practically starved".
He described his life prior to being rescued as being one of "beatings, starvation and work" and the court heard the man suffered "seven years of abuse, starvation and torture".
He added: "There was no respect. They treated me like a slave, and that's putting it mildly."
The second man held as a slave was only kept for a few months before he managed to escape. He was warned by John Connors that if he tried to escape another worker would be ordered to murder him.
The man was never allowed to use the Connor's toilet and he was told if he did they would "break his arms and legs".
He told the police that once the couple forced him to travel for more than 30 minutes in the boot of their car. At the same time he was ordered to sing nursery rhymes to their children.
Josie Connors wept in court as her sentence was read out. Her husband bowed his head throughout proceedings and showed little emotion when jailed.
It is the first case of its kind since compelling someone to carry out forced labour and holding them in servitude became a specific crime in 2010.