MILLIONAIRE Irish Travellers from Gloucestershire convicted of forced labour charges were handed almost £500,000 in legal aid to fight their case, it has emerged.
The Staverton-based Connors family lived the high life at the expense of homeless drug addicts and alcoholics who they recruited for their own personal workforce.
William Connors, 52, wife Breda, 48, their sons, John, 29, and James, 20, and son-in-law Miles Connors, 24, were jailed in December after being convicted of conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.
Their total 18-year sentence is currently being reviewed by a panel of judges after the Attorney General stepped in, calling for harsher punishments.
Family profits from laying driveways and patios funded a luxury lifestyle with exotic holidays, a fleet of flash cars and a string of properties worth millions. The family bought two caravan parks in Gloucestershire for £545,000 more than a decade ago and had over £500,000 in bank accounts seized by police.
The Legal Services Commission, the quango overseeing legal aid, paid a total of £461,363.68 for lawyers to defend the family during Bristol Crown Court proceedings.
The large bill was racked up during lengthy legal proceedings, including a three month trial.
A Legal Services Commission spokesman said: "We manage costs carefully and legal aid rates are considerably less than those paid to lawyers in privately-funded cases.
"The law says anyone facing a crown court trial for a serious criminal offence can apply for legal aid to ensure they have a lawyer, but funding is subject to a means test."
The Commission could claw back the money if it is found the Connors have assets of over £30,000.