Forced labour gang convicted after violently forcing a man to commit crimes and work without pay

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Four people have been sentenced for a series of fraud and forced labour offences after a man was violently forced to commit crimes and work without pay during a two-year ordeal.

The group appeared at Oxford Crown Court on Monday (June 8), after a series of offences which occurred in Oxford and Hemel Hempstead between January 2012 and November 2013.

Paul Joyce, 33, of Red Bridge Hollow in Old Abingdon Road, Oxford, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud, one count of common assault and two counts of substantive forced labour on April 24 at the same court.

He was today sentenced to 34 months’ imprisonment.

Helen Cash, 31, of Red Bridge Hollow, Old Abingdon Road, Oxford, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and two counts of substantive labour on April 24 at the same court.

She was given a two-year suspended sentence, and an 18-month supervision order.

Michael Joyce, 25, of Red Bridge Hollow in Old Abingdon Road, Oxford, pleaded guilty to one count of substantive forced labour on April 24 at the same court.

He was given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work, to be completed in one year.

Ifran Iqbal, 29, of Millfield Walk, Hemel Hempstead, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and one count of substantive labour on April 24 at the same court.

He was today given a one-year community service order, ordered to undertake 12 months of unpaid work, and given a nine-month supervision order.

The charges relate to one victim, a 27-year-old man, who was controlled and forced to work without receiving pay for approximately two years and forced to commit crime through being threatened and intimidated.

During this time, Paul Joyce and Helen Cash falsely used the victim’s bank account details and bank cards, while Paul Joyce, Cash and Iqbal dishonestly made false representations that the victim was entitled to claim housing benefit in Hemel Hempstead. Paul Joyce and Cash also falsely claimed the victim’s Employment Support Allowance.

Joyce, Joyce, Iqbal and Cash all also required the victim to perform forced or compulsory labour.

When the victim attempted to leave in November 2012, he was assaulted by Paul Joyce, causing bruising to his head and body.

The victim was reported missing in November 2013 and was located in Redbourn.

The four defendants were arrested in March last year and were charged in December 2014.

Det Chief Insp Mark Glover said: “This is the first case of its kind in the Thames Valley and the first successful conviction for forced labour offences.

“I would like to commend the victim for his bravery in coming forward and speaking to police about his experiences. Without his courage in reporting what happened to him, we may not have been successful in bringing this case to court.

“The victim has been supported by Thames Valley Police specialist officers throughout the investigation and he will continue to be given the support that he needs as he starts to rebuild his life following his ordeal.

“There may be many more victims of forced labour who we do not yet know about, and I would urge anyone who has any information about crime of this nature to come forward and speak to police.

“We will offer advice, support and protection while conducting a thorough investigation into any allegations made. Call police via the 101 number or speak to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Adrian Foster, chief crown prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “The offences involved the serious mistreatment of a vulnerable man, who had little option but to continue to work for them, because he was trapped by his personal circumstances.

“They used intimidation, threats of violence and actual violence to prevent the victim leaving them or from alerting the authorities to their mistreatment. They forced him to work very long hours labouring, paving, leafleting, gardening and stealing, failed to pay him for his work and took advantage of his vulnerability and inability to protest in doing so.

“They stole the victim’s bank card, took control of his bank account and even claimed benefits on his behalf. The offences were financially motivated, allowing the four to live in relative luxury while the victim was provided with the most basic living standards possible.

“This case highlights the fact that both the police and the CPS are committed to securing justice even in the most difficult circumstances and for the most vulnerable members of our society.

“It is shocking to hear that offences such as these can occur in modern times, but this case may not in fact be unique. Any members of the public who are concerned that a member of their family or their friends may have been subjected to similar treatment should contact their local police without delay.

“The victim has been supported throughout the case by a number of agencies since his release which I hope will give him an opportunity to rebuild his life. Our thoughts are very much with him at this time.”