William Connors and Others v R

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeThe Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Judgment Date26 March 2013
Neutral Citation[2013] EWCA Crim 324
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Date26 March 2013
Docket NumberCase No: (1) 2013/00300;(2)2013/3300301;(3)2013/00298;(4)2013/00297

[2013] EWCA Crim 324



His Honour Judge Longman


Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL


The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

Mr Justice Simon


Mr Justice Irwin

Case No: (1) 2013/00300;(2)2013/3300301;(3)2013/00298;(4)2013/00297

(1) William Connors
(2) James Connors
(3) John Connors
(4) Miles Connors

(1) M BorrelliQC for the Appellant William Connors

(2) N J Atkinson QC for the Appellant James Connors

(3) G Cammerman for the Appellant John Connors

(4) Roger SmithQC for the Appellant Miles Connors

D Grieve QC (Attorney General) and E Brown QC for the Respondent

Hearing date: 14 th February 2013

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

This is a Reference under s.36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 by the Attorney General of sentences imposed at Bristol Crown Court by His Honour Judge Longman on 19 December 2012.


The offenders, referred to hereafter as the defendants, are William Connors, who is 52 years old, James Connors, who is 20 years old, John Connors, who has recently passed his 30 th birthday, and Miles Connors who is 24 years old. William Connors is the father of John and James Connors, and Miles Connors is his son in law. Mary "Brida" Connors is his wife, the mother of John and James Connors, and mother in law of Miles Connors.


On 14 December 2012, following a three month long trial, all five defendants were convicted of a single count of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour, a substantive offence defined in s.71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. During the course of the trial, at the close of the prosecution case, the judge directed the jury to acquit the defendants of conspiracy to hold a person in slavery or servitude on the basis that insufficient evidence had been adduced by the prosecution in support of this count.


On 19 December 2012 Williams Connors was sentenced to 6 1/2 years imprisonment, John Connors to 4 years imprisonment, James Connors to 3 years detention in a Young Offenders' Institution and Miles Connors to 3 years imprisonment. Mary Brida Connors was sentenced to 2 years 3 months imprisonment. The Attorney General submits that the sentences on the first four defendants were unduly lenient.


Before addressing the facts on which this specific conspiracy charge was based, we must offer some general observations about the troublesome crime of exploitation of labour. The problem has been with us for some time, and has been growing. Unhappily different forms of exploitation are found in the sex industry, the construction industry, agriculture and residential care. That list is not comprehensive. Those who are exploited are always and inevitably vulnerable, and just because they are so vulnerable, profoundly reluctant to report what has happened or is happening to them. The Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 criminalised the exploitation of labour when it was connected to trafficking in human beings, but not otherwise. Therefore it did not prevent vulnerable but untrafficked individuals from being subjected to forced or compulsory labour. The Gang Masters' Licensing Act 2004 established a system for licensing those who employed workers in specified industries. Nevertheless, this legislation, too did not address the entire problem. The end result was that many men and women continued to remain vulnerable to exploitation without any counter-balancing protection against exploitation.


Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 closed this vulnerability gap by creating an offence capable of being committed in three different ways. This new offence does not require that the victim should have been trafficked, and does not address or create a new offence relating to immigration crime. The first offence involves slavery, the second, servitude, and the third, forced or compulsory labour. In the order of seriousness, slavery is the most grave offence, followed by servitude, and then forced or compulsory labour. Although this is the least serious form of these offences, it remains a serious offence in its own right.


The distinction between these three forms of the same offence is illuminatingly described by this court in S K [2001] EWCA Crim. 1691 applying the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in Saliadin v France […] and Van Droogenbroeck v Belgium [1979] …

"we have found assistance on what may be described as the hierarchy of the denial of personal autonomy to which Article 4 and thus s.4 of the 2004 Act relate in Clayton's and Tomlinson's "The Law of Human Rights", 2 nd Edition, volume 1, paragraphs 9.17 to 9.20 (on the concepts of "slavery" and "servitude") and paragraph 9.25 (on the concept of "forced or compulsory labour"), where the following commentary appears:

"9.17 … "Slavery" involves being in the legal ownership of another — a concept which is sometimes referred to as "chattel slavery". It has been suggested that this concept has evolved to encompass various other forms of slavery which are also based on the "exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership." In practice, issues concerning slavery have not arisen under the Convention because legally sanctioned slavery does not exist in any of the states which are parties to it.

9.18. "Servitude" also embraces the totality of the status or condition of a person. However, it is distinguishable from slavery in that servitude does not involve ownership, but concerns less extensive forms of restraint. For Convention purposes "servitude" means an obligation to provide one's services that is imposed by the use of coercion.

9.19. Servitude can be differentiated from forced labour. In the Van Droogenbroeck case, the Commission stated that:

In addition to the obligation to provide another with certain services the concept of servitude includes the obligation on the part of the "serf" to live on another's property and the impossibility of changing his condition …"

"9.25 … Forced labour connotes direct compulsion whereas compulsory labour impliedly includes indirect forms of compulsion as well … In most cases the distinction between the two is unnecessary."

In descending order of gravity, therefore, "slavery" stands at the top of the hierarchy, "servitude" in the middle, and "forced or compulsory labour" at the bottom."


The maximum sentence for each offence is 14 years imprisonment. The legislation does not create different maximum sentences for the three different forms the offence may take. It is therefore fallacious to suggest that the maximum sentence for servitude must always be lower than that for slavery, and the maximum sentence for forced or compulsory labour lower than the maximum sentence for servitude. The hierarchy of these offences does not necessarily define the criminal culpability of the offender. Precisely the same obtains when the offence is conspiracy to commit any one of these three offences. What can be said is that where the other circumstances are broadly similar, an offence of slavery is likely to be more severely punished than one of servitude, and one of servitude more severely than one of forced labour: it is however important to emphasise that distinctions of this kind only apply where the manifestations of criminal behaviour, in the context, for example, culpability and magnitude and complexity and profit are indeed similar.


The level of sentencing for those convicted of these offences has not been addressed by the Sentencing Guidelines Council or the Sentencing Council, and we see no pressing need for the production of a definitive guideline. We are unable to derive any assistance from the definitive guidelines relating to fraud or sexual offences. A measure of assistance can however be derived from the Attorney General References Nos. 37, 38, 65 of 2010 [EWCA Crim. 2880], decided in the context of convictions under the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004, where the maximum sentence as with the present case, is 14 years imprisonment. The conspiracy then under consideration lasted for four years. Fooled by a deceitful promise of work, nine men from the Middle East or South Asia were lured to work in a restaurant, but after their arrival in this country, suffered many of the different forms which the exploitation of labour can take. On the facts of that case, the court considered that the starting point for sentence after a trial would have been 6 years imprisonment. More important for present purposes was the analysis of some of the relevant factors which might assist in the assessment of the seriousness of an offence. Unsurprisingly, the relevant considerations include what we might describe as the hallmarks of criminality. These include the nature and degree of the deception or coercion involved in persuading the worker to join the organisation, and the nature and degree of subsequent exploitation after arrival at the workplace; conditions at the workplace, together with the level and methods of control to ensure that the individual remained trapped within the organisation; the level and extent of his vulnerability, and the degree of harm, including physical, psychological and financial harm, suffered by him; plainly the nature and extent...

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