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A traveller couple were branded “pure evil” for keeping “modern-day slaves” as they were jailed yesterday in the first such case for over 200 years.

They were convicted of controlling, exploiting and abusing vulnerable men for financial gain.

James John Connors, 34, who was also convicted of assaulting a slave over a prolonged period, was sentenced to 11 years at Luton Crown Court. Mother-of-three Josie, 31, was given four years.

The couple, who are cousins, are thought to be the first to be jailed using ‘servitude’ legislation introduced two years ago to combat exploitation.

They forced destitute men to work for up to 19 hours a day for little or no money in their block-paving business. The victims were promised comfortable lodgings and wages by the Irish travellers but had to live in ‘concentration camp’ conditions at a caravan site near Leighton Buzzard.

Judge Michael Kay QC said: “The way in which these defendants, for their own financial benefit, brutalised, manipulated and exploited men who had already plumbed the depths of despair as homeless beggars is pure evil.

“Their behaviour is profoundly at odds with the moral code of the religion they profess. Their complete disdain for the dignity and fundamental rights of their fellow human beings is shocking.”

They were not Good Samaritans “but violent cold-hearted exploiters” of those who faced ill fortune.

Josie’s brother Johnny, 28, was cleared of conspiracy to hold a person in servitude. - Daily Mail