By Umberto Bacchi
LONDON, Aug 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A British court convicted an extended family of modern slavery offences after they forced vulnerable people to work for them for little or no wages while their captors lived a life of luxury, prosecutors said on Friday.
Nottingham Crown Court convicted 11 members of the Rooney family of a series of offences, including forced and compulsory labour, exploitation and fraud, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.
Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith said the defendants "lived lives of luxury at the expense of their victims, condemning them to live in fear, misery and squalor".
"For them, exploitation, violence and extortion were a way of life," Smith said in a statement.
The family lured vulnerable people, some of them homeless or with learning disabilities, with the promise of work, food and accommodation, the CPS said.
They were taken to travellers sites in the eastern city of Lincoln and housed in shabby, dilapidated caravans, mostly with no heating, running water and toilets, including one man who was held for 26 years.
The 18 victims were told they owed money and forced to work long hours on site or for the defendants' businesses repairing properties and paving driveways, without safety equipment.
They would often go hungry and were subjected to beatings and threats to keep them from leaving, the CPS said.
Their captors often denied them medical treatment, even if severely injured, and some who tried to escape were tracked down and brought back.
Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) said on Thursday modern slavery and human trafficking were more prevalent than previously thought, affecting every large town and city across the country.
Britain passed tough anti-slavery legislation in 2015 introducing life sentences for traffickers and forcing companies to disclose what they are doing to ensure their supply chains are free from slavery.
There are 21 million people in forced labour globally, including children, in a business worth $150 billion a year, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Astrid Zweynert @azweynert.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)