A PLANNED trial for a married couple accused of slavery offences has been abandoned after the defendants were found unfit to plead.

Mary Turner, 64, and David Porter, 66, were in September 2014 charged with a 16-count indictment alleging slavery and theft offences.

Some of the alleged offences were against four individuals aged between their late 30s and early 70s. All of the complainants are British nationals and identified as having been trafficked, police claimed. Charges included holding a person in servitude, failing to notify an authority of a change in circumstances and fraud.

However, yesterday morning at Bournemouth Crown Court, prosecutors said that after a “tortuous” three-year fight to bring the case to trial, they were unable to proceed further. Both defendants, of Bere Road, Cold Harbour, Wareham, have now been found formally not guilty of all charges.

Kerry Maylin, prosecuting, said Mrs Turner and Mr Porter had been assessed by psychiatrists acting for both the CPS and the defence. As a result of their reports, it is no longer in the public interest to continue, she said.

“The four complainants in this matter had been living in substandard conditions and were, on the crown’s case, forced to work for little or no money,” Ms Maylin said.“Rather large sums of state money appeared not to go to those complainants but to the hands of the defendants.”

The defendants offered explanations for this during police interview, the court heard.

Judge Peter Johnson formally found the couple not guilty of all charges against them. However, he also made restraining orders upon acquittal for both Mrs Turner and Mr Porter protecting all complainants.Ms Maylin made the application for the orders based on several alleged incidents involving the defendants.

Neither Mrs Turner nor Mr Porter appeared at the court for the hearing.

At the time of their arrest in 2014, both spoke to the Daily Echo. Mr Porter said: “I am shocked by the police action, we are not guilty of all charges and this is just discrimination against us.” Mrs Turner said: “We are completely innocent and we will now prove this.”