A woman slave driver has been jailed for three years for trafficking workers into Britain and forcing them to live in squalid conditions – surviving on just POTATOES.
Jurate Grigelyte, 53, promised her 11 victims and their children a better life and paid for their 30-hour bus journey from her home country without a work permit.
But once they arrived she set the adults to work gruelling long days collecting thousands of charity clothes bags from all over the south west for just £50 a day.
Bully Grigelyte would fine them for drinking alcohol the day before work or being ill, and kept them locked in cramped homes – only letting them leave through a window.
She often paid the two women and nine men no wages at all, forcing them to live solely off potatoes for long stretches of time.
The cruel taskmaster even banned them from using the same toilet as herself.
Jailing her at Bristol Crown Court, Judge Martin Picton, said: “The evidence reveals a depressing picture of vulnerable people coming from Lithuania into this country in the hope of a better life and getting nothing like that.
“The vulnerability of the complainants varies between each of them. They were all economically vulnerable. They all had personal vulnerabilities.
“They were trapped – certainly economically trapped. They were in a position where it was difficult to move on.
“They were not prisoners but they were certainly isolated in their society.
“They were paid less than minimum wage and sometimes not paid at all.
“The fact that some of them had children with them that had to witness this violation adds to the depressing nature of the images the evidence generates in this case.”
The victims ranged in age from 18 to late 60s and there were two children – a 14-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy – who were not forced to work.
Cruel Grigelyte would pay for her workers to get the bus from Lithuania with ‘the hope of a better life’ and then deduct the ticket from their measly wages.
Once they arrived in Bristol, some would start work at 5am, and get taken up to 150 miles a day to collect bags of clothes in a van with no windows or seats.
Other victims would work 13 hour days sorting through the clothing and bric-a-brac that was collected.
One pregnant woman had no access to healthcare and suffered a miscarriage through working long hours.
Their pay was subjected to her ridiculous fines – documented in a colour-coded ledger found by police – for simple things like drinking alcohol, taking a day off or being ill.
The court heard one of her victims, Vitalijus Kazilionis, was fined up to £125 a time.
Prosecuting, Rupert Lowe, said: “The defendant threatened Mr Kazilionis with fines if he was seen drinking alcohol and banned from working the next day. This could total ?125.
“He said the fines were an excuse for not paying him to work.”
Police arrested Grigelyte in November 2013 after a school became concerned about a six-year-old son of one of the victims and raided one of her homes.
They discovered families living in single rooms, people using rocking chairs as bed, and inhabitants using the window to get in and out of the locked property.
Six of the victims were relocated by the Salvation Army while the rest were helped by the local Lithuanian community.
Grigelyte, of Easton, Bristol, pleaded guilty to 10 counts trafficking people into the country, 10 counts of trafficking them around the country and one count of forced labour.
Defending, Nicholas Clough, said Grigelyte arrived in the UK the same way as her victims – on a 30 hour bus journey.
He added: “There were others above her in the chain. She is remorseful. When it started out she was did not know she was breaking the law.”
Investigating officer Detective Constable Richard O’Brien said: “They had no money to buy food and at one stage were living solely off potatoes.
“Many were forced to find food at a free food kitchen.
“Grigelyte would fine them if they drank alcohol, were sick and unable to work, or if they hadn’t delivered enough bags.
“They were also not allowed to use the same toilet as Grigelyte and would be fined again for doing so.
“These victims have been treated appallingly and have been forced to endure conditions no worker should ever have to face.
“The fear and intimidation victims of exploitation often face on a daily basis is very difficult to comprehend.”