Largest Modern-day Slavery Case


Nigel Edwards, barrister for Peter Doran was instructed by Bird & Co Solicitors to defend 11 members of a Lincolnshire family on the largest modern-day slavery trial in UK legal history.

The Rooney family was convicted of a series of modern slavery offences after forcing at least 18 victims to work for little or no pay. The victims included homeless people and some with learning disabilities who were made to live in filthy conditions for up to 26 years. The family was based on traveller sites in Lincoln and sought out potential captives on the streets, targeting vulnerable people including those with drug or alcohol addictions.

The victims were told they would receive food and accommodation as compensation for their work, but the promises were exposed as lies. The family kept their victims financially-trapped and under control.

One victim of the family was forced to dig his own grave and threatened, ‘that’s where you’re going’ if he did not sign a bogus work contract. Another victim’s sister gave an account of his life under the control of John Rooney. She said he was beaten with a rake when he overslept, had his teeth smashed with a concrete slab and had been left “psychologically damaged” by the mistreatment.

The money made from the workers was spent on holidays to Barbados, cosmetic surgery and coaching at a Manchester United football school.

Four elderly home-owners were also targeted after the gang coerced them into signing over their properties. The Rooney family then sold three of the houses on for profit, one for as much as £250,000.

In 2014, the Lincolnshire Police and the National Crime Agency carried out raids and freed the men, aged 18 to 63.

Case Details

Judge Timothy Spencer QC said, “After careful consideration, I’m quite satisfied the public interest lies in these matters being reported.”

Nigel Edwards, Counsel at St Pauls Chambers and Stuart Wild of Bird & Co Solicitors represented Peter Doran who was charged with conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour. The case at Nottingham Crown Court was part of Lincolnshire Police’s Operation Pottery investigation, one of the largest investigations of its kind.

Ch. Supt. Chris Davison, of Lincolnshire Police, said: “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.”

11 members of the family were jailed for up to 15 years in September 2017 for violently exploiting at least 18 victims of the largest modern-day slavery case in the UK.

The sentencing was appealed in December 2018 with a ruling to be expected in 2019.

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