A family of Irish Travellers wept in court when they were sentenced to 18 years in an English jail on slavery charges.

William Connors and four other members of his family were found guilty of enslaving homeless and vulnerable men.

The court in Bristol had heard how the Connors family forced up to 37 men into a life of slavery.
52-year-old Connors masterminded the operation that lured the men, some of them drug addicts, off the streets.

They were exploited by the family, housed in appalling conditions and paid a pittance for paving and tarmac works.

Brutal beatings ensured their victims carried out the harsh labor and funded the family’s lavish lifestyle, the court heard.

The judge handed down the tough sentences after he was told how the men were crammed into squalid caravans, forced to wash with cold-water hoses and had to scavenge scraps of food from bins to survive.

The Irish Sun reports that the men were lucky to be paid at all while Connors and his gang lived in luxury, enjoying expensive holidays and top of the range cars.

Read more: Mailman gets jail term after robbing $3 million to feed massive gambling addiction

Family head William, 52, was jailed for six and a half years and his wife Mary, 48, received a two years and three months sentence.

Son John, 29, received a four year term and younger brother James, 20, was sentenced to three years in a young offender institution.

Son-in-law Miles Connors, 24, was jailed for three years.

Judge Michael Longman said: “You have all exploited these victims’ vulnerability to reap rich rewards.”

The report says the Connors were convicted last week of conspiring to require people to perform forced or compulsory labour.

They were also found guilty of stealing over $150,000 from the benefits of their victims.

Police began to investigate the gang after the body of Christopher Nicholls was found by a halting site in 2008.

Under cover cameras caught footage of miserable-looking workers put to hard labor at the Connors’ caravan bases and paving punters’ driveways.

During the trial, the family insisted they were good Samaritans who had helped the men off the streets.

However, police who rescued 19 of the victims during the raids were so horrified by the living conditions that they refused to enter the caravans.

The trial heard the men were banned from using toilet blocks and were paid just $8 a day while the Connors enjoyed holidays in Cancun in Mexico and Tenerife.

Police inspector Dave Sellwood branded William Connors: “A very greedy, arrogant man.”

He added: “This was all about affording him a luxurious lifestyle. His means of earning a fortune was exploiting people at the bottom of society with no hope.”

Iht 600x300px with button2