Lincolnshire modern slavery ring jailed for total of 79 years

9 members of a family who ran a modern slavery ring in Lincolnshire will spend a combined total of almost 80 years in jail.

The Rooney family exploited a total of 18 vulnerable and homeless men and kept them in squalid conditions at their farm at Drinsey Nook and at another site in Washingborough.

They picked their victims up from various places across the country, transporting them to Lincolnshire with the promise that they would be given work and would be looked after.

Instead, they were given filthy caravans to live in and were forced into gruelling manual labour jobs.

They had to work for the family business, which involved repaving driveways and various other physical tasks. Some of the victims described having to work 7 days a week.

Police investigating the case photographed the squalid caravans where they were housed:

The caravans were unheated and lacked basic toilet facilities. The slaves were rarely allowed to wash and were limited to taking cold showers in filthy conditions.

Their accommodation was a stark contrast to how the Rooney family lived; in a life of luxury, thanks to the money earned and conned off their victims:

The victims were exploited financially. They had bank accounts set up in their names and their identities were used to claim benefits, which were then confiscated and used by the family.

Some of the victims had learning difficulties and a proportion were European nationals without strong English skills. They felt unable to escape their situation without being physically assaulted.

Many of the victims had problems with addictions and were plied with alcohol and cigarettes instead of being paid.

One of them was beaten with a machete and a shovel so badly a witness thought he might be killed. A man, who was with the family for more that two decades, was forced to dig his own grave for objecting to working.

Another victim, a Hungarian national, described the toll the labour took on his health. He lost teeth and suffered numerous cuts and bruises.

He had a metal plate in his leg from an injury he suffered before he met the Rooneys. It became exposed during his time working for the family, causing what the man described as '10 out of 10 pain'. When he was taken to see a doctor by the family, he was told he shouldn't be working and was lucky to have kept his leg.

This interview is with one of the victims in the case, after his release. His voice has been disguised:

Even when the men tried to escape, they were pursued by the family. One of the victims escaped to Lincoln, where he was being helped by a local charity. The family turned up at the church 5 times in 6 weeks demanding to see the man.

Rod Smith, a victim who was captive in the early 1990s, waived his anonymity to speak about what happened. He spoke to reporter Tom Parmenter:

11 members of the extended Rooney family were arrested after a series of police raids in 2014, under the name 'Operation Pottery'.

They were arrested after several police forces carried out seven simultaneous raids across Lincolnshire, Nottingham and London in September 2014.

Today, all of them were sentenced, having been convicted in August this year.

Two twins from Drinsey Nook were given the harshest punishments. Patrick Rooney was given 15 years and 9 months and John Rooney was handed 15 and a half years behind bars.

They were named among the 5 'ringleaders' of the slavery gang, who conspired to keep the victims at the sites in Washingborough and at Drinsey Nook (seen below):

Chief Superintendent Chris Davison, Head of Crime for Lincolnshire Police, said:

“The severity of these crimes is underlined by the sentences imposed by the judge.  The victims will never get the years back that were taken away from them but I hope this provides them with some comfort that justice has been served...

“We will not rest on this result as there are potentially other victims of modern slavery in our county.  We are exploring five active investigations and we will continue to put any victims at the very heart of our investigations" he added.

The sentences for all 11 members of the slavery ring were:

- John Rooney (31) of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby received 15 years 6 months
- Patrick Rooney (31) of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby received 15 years 9 months
- Bridget Rooney (55) of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby received 7 years
- Martin Rooney (35) of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield received 2 years suspended for 2 years
- Martin Rooney (57) of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby received 10 years 9 months
- Martin Rooney (23) of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby received 6 years 9 months
- Patrick Rooney (54) of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield received 12 months suspended for 2 years
- John Rooney (53) of Chantry Croft, Pontefract received 5 years 10 months
- Peter Doran (36) of Washingborough Road, Lincoln received 6 years
- Gerard Rooney (46) of Washingborough Road, Lincoln received 6 years
- Lawrence Rooney (47) currently in prison, received 6 years

Most of those jailed were brothers, sons and parents:

Lincs FM's Charlotte Reid sent us this report about the case from the sentencing at Nottingham Crown Court.

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