GLA chief slams "derisory sentence" for Armagh apple pickers' gangmaster

Gheorghe Ionas was fined £500 by Craigavon Magistrates Court after it emerged he kept Romanian apple pickers in an unheated outbuilding in and forced them to scavenge for out-of-date food from supermarket bins.

Paul Broadbent - image:HW
Paul Broadbent - image:HW

Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) chief executive Paul Broadbent said he was "shocked and appalled" by the sentence, and would now seek to appeal.

He said: "I simply fail to see how this punishment fits the crime and is in any way a deterrent for someone who preyed on vulnerable men.

"I will be writing to the Public Prosecutor for Northern Ireland to seek leave to appeal this
derisory sentence and express my utter dismay that slavery – for that is what this was – is seemingly not recognised in the court."

Searching Ionas' home in Lurgan, Co Armagh in October last year, police and GLA officers found three Romanian men sleeping in a breeze-block outbuilding with no heating, which Craigavon Borough Council declared "unfit for human habitation".

The men were paid £100 per week, less than half the national minimum wage, to work full-time in County Armagh's apple orchards.

The three men were given access to specialist support services and have since returned to Romania.

Ionas pled guilty to a single charge of acting as a gangmaster without a licence. As well as the £500 fine, he was ordered to pay £46 towards court costs and a £15 offender's levy.

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