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Sentence For Brothel Owner Manifestly Inadequate

27 September 2005

Sentence For Brothel Owner Selling 14 And 17 Year Old Girls Manifestly Inadequate

Yesterday’s decision by the Wellington District Court, to hand out a meagre 300 hours community work to a woman who sold two girls aged 14 and 17 years of age for sex, was extremely disappointing says one group working to end the sexual exploitation of children and youth.

Judge John Walker sentenced the former Wellington brothel owner to community work on two charges of entering into an arrangement for commercial sex and two of facilitating commercial sex with two girls under 18. The Judge also granted the woman name suppression.

Evidence was given that both girls had worked for several weeks. The Court was told that the 14-year old, who was in the care of Child, Youth and Family Services at the time, had had 24 sexual exploiters use her and the 17-year old had had 13.

Spokesperson for Stop Demand Foundation, Denise Ritchie, says “Yesterday’s case was important in that it was only the second to proceed under the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act. The woman faced a maximum seven years jail. To see her being treated so leniently by the Court sets a disappointing benchmark to a law that was promised, by politicians, to deal harshly with those who use, and facilitate the use of, minors for commercial sexual exploitation. It was the responsibility of the brothel owner to verify the girls’ ages.

The Judge took into account the woman’s poor mental and physical health and her personal circumstances. However, the fact that her lawyer acknowledged that the woman had run a prostitution business successfully for ten years suggests that she should have been fully aware of her obligations under the new laws. Offenders should not be succeeding in arguments concerning health, personal circumstances, lack of intention, administrative oversight and the like.”

Of the 37 sexual exploiters who paid to use the girls for sexual services, Ritchie asks “What efforts are being made by the police to track them down and charge them? This case highlights the need for brothels and sexual premises to be required to keep a register of those who use their services. In such circumstances, police should be able to track down those who have exploited these girls and bring them before the Courts to also face penalties of up to seven years’ prison.

Failure to do so paves the way for the commercial sexual exploitation of minors in this country to be dismissed as a trivial offence with manifestly inadequate penalties providing little deterrence to others.”

ENDS

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