Eleven members of a Lincolnshire family have been convicted of a series of modern slavery offences after forcing at least 18 victims – including homeless people and some with learning disabilities – to work for little or no pay and live in squalid conditions for up to 26 years.
The members of the Rooney family, who were based on Traveller sites in Lincoln, targeted vulnerable people, including some with alcohol or drug addiction, and deliberately looked for potential captives on the streets, Nottingham crown court heard.
The impact of the forced labour on the mental and physical health of the victims had been severe, prosecutors said, with some being malnourished, subjected to beatings and threatened, and one of the victims was found to have been working for the family for 26 years.
The Rooneys lured in their captives with offers of work and accommodation but once they accepted they were allocated dilapidated caravans mostly with no heating, water or toilet facilities, prosecutors said.
The convictions in four trials – which can now be reported after restrictions were lifted by a judge – were revealed a day after the National Crime Agency (NCA) said modern slavery and human trafficking was far more prevalent than previously thought, with potentially tens of thousands of victims in the UK.
The 11 gang members in the Lincolnshire case, convicted of fraud and slavery charges, used the money they made from their workers to pay for holidays to Barbados, cosmetic surgery and coaching at a Manchester United football school.