MEMBERS of a British family that ran a modern slavery ring targeting vulnerable people have been jailed for a total of 79 years.
Nottingham Crown Court heard the Rooney family was "chilling in their mercilessness” towards victims, who were beaten and left without running water and sanitation in squalid conditions.
Eleven relatives - 10 men and one woman - were convicted on modern slavery and fraud offences.
They ran a driveway-resurfacing company, illegally bringing 18 men to properties in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and London and forcing them to work.
Members of the gang sought out targets in the streets, hostels and shelters, offering work for food and accommodation, then using false promises, drugs, alcohol and violence to entrap them.
Many of the victims, aged between 18 and 63, were homeless, and others had learning disabilities or complex drug and alcohol issues. One man had been working for the family for 26 years.
While the gang members lived in luxurious homes, bought high-performance cars, enjoyed holidays to Barbados and had cosmetic surgery, their slaves were kept in squalid caravans or kennels, subjected to punishment beatings and had little access to heating, water and toilets.
When the victims were freed in 2014, they were found to be undernourished and told police they were given the family's leftovers.
If victims complained, the Rooneys would say they owed money and claim more labour to pay off the supposed debts, while providing alcohol and drugs as part of what prosecutors had described as a "grooming” process.
They also used threats and violence, including punishment beatings, and victims were denied medical help for their injuries and illness.
One man said "life with the Rooneys was a living hell”, while the court heard that another was beaten with a shovel for returning a car with no petrol.
The abuse allowed the gang to tighten their hold over their victims and their bank accounts, which were used to fund their own indulgent lifestyles.
Some of the Rooneys also targeted four elderly homeowners, getting them to sign over properties into their names and selling three on for profits of up to £250,000.
Head of Crime for Lincolnshire Police, Chief Superintendent Chris Davison, 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.
"We will not rest on this result as there are potentially other victims of modern slavery in our county.”
John Rooney, 31, and Patrick Rooney, 31, both from Sheffield Road, Saxilby, Lincolnshire, got the stiffest jail sentences - 15 years and six months. - Lizzie Dearden, the Independent