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  1. ITV Report

Lincolnshire slavery gang jailed for total of nearly 80 years

The Rooney family kept slaves in 'truly shocking' conditions Photo: Lincolnshire Police

A family who ran a modern day slavery ring in Lincolnshire have been jailed for a total of nearly 80 years.

Eleven gang members were convicted of involvement in offences which included the keeping of one man in "truly shocking" conditions for decades.

They operated from sites in Drinsey Nook and Washingborough in Lincolnshire and targeted victims who had learning difficulties or complex drug and alcohol issues.

John Rooney, of Chantry Croft, Pontefract, was jailed at Nottinghamshire Crown on Tuesday after being convicted modern slavery offences.

Other members of the Rooney family were given custodial sentences ranging from 15 to six years, while two received suspended sentences.

A total of 11 defendants were convicted of offences following a series of linked trials relating to modern slavery and fraud at Nottingham Crown Court. Credit: ITV News

The Rooney clan targeted the vulnerable and homeless forcing them to work for little or no wages and live in squalid caravans with no water or toilets.

While they lived a life of luxury blowing cash on holidays to Barbados, Mexico and Australia, fast cars, Rolex watches, spa days and plastic surgery.

They even used their ill-gotten gains to pay for a Manchester United football school.

One captive, who was held for 26 years, was ordered to dig his own grave and told "that's where you're going" if he didn't sign a bogus contract.

He said he was also beaten with a rake when he overslept and suffered broken teeth when a concrete slab was thrown in his face.

How the family are all related Credit: Lincolnshire Police

A total of 11 defendants were convicted of offences following a series of linked trials relating to modern slavery and fraud at Nottingham Crown Court.

Six people were initially arrested in September 2014 when seven warrants were executed in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and London as part of inquiries into allegations of modern slavery.

All the victims of the offences were described as extremely vulnerable, including several who had learning disabilities and mental health issues, and were estranged from their families.

Evidence picture of victim's hands Credit: Lincolnshire Police

Commenting on the sentences handed down to those involved in the offences, 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 and demonstrates that we will do everything in our power to try and stop others suffering in the ways that they did."

Officers from HM Revenue and Customs supported Lincolnshire Police from the start of the investigation, identifying income tax, VAT and Tax Credit offences after analysing the family's illegal trading activities.

Simon York, director, fraud investigation service, HMRC, said: "These people lived a life of luxury by exploiting and abusing highly vulnerable individuals.

"They stripped them of their humanity, forcing them to live and work in terrible conditions".

The squalid conditions the men were forced to live in Credit: Lincolnshire Police

The family were convicted in four separate trials at Nottingham Crown Court.

Head of the family Martin Rooney Senior, 57, was sentenced to 10 years and nine months.

While his twin sons Patrick and John, 31, were each jailed for 15 years.

Martin Snr's wife Bridget, 55, who helped starve the workers to force their submission, was jailed for seven years.

The couple's other son Martin Junior, 23, was jailed for six years and nine months.

Six others family members were also sentenced for their part in the slavery ring.

The sentences in full:

  • Martin Rooney, 57, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for 10 years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and unlawful wounding.
  • John Rooney, 31, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby, Lincolnshire - Jailed for 15 years and six months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, conspiracy to defraud, fraud by false representation and two counts of theft.
  • Patrick Rooney, 31, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for 15 years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, fraud by abuse of position, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and two counts of theft.
  • Bridget Rooney, 55, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for seven years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
  • Martin Rooney, 23, of Drinsey Nook, Sheffield Road, Saxilby - Jailed for six years and nine months for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
  • John Rooney, 53, of Chantry Croft, Pontefract, Yorkshire - Jailed for five years and 10 months for two counts of conspiring to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
  • Peter Doran, 36, of Washingborough Road, Lincoln - Jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
  • Gerard Rooney, 46, of Washingborough Road, Lincoln - Jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
  • Lawrence Rooney, 47, currently in prison - Jailed for six years for conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
  • Patrick Rooney, 54, of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire - Two year suspended sentence for converting criminal property.
  • Martin Rooney, 35, of Sainfoin Farm, Gatemoor Lane, Beaconsfield - 12 month suspended sentence for conspiracy to defraud, two counts of converting criminal property.

The Palm Cove Society supports vulnerable people, including those who have been exploited by gangs like the Rooneys. Yvonne Hall and Gerard Stokes, from the organisation, spoke to Christine and Duncan earlier:

  • For more information about the work of the Palm Cove Society, click here