Trafficking in persons

Queen v Rong Chen, Simon Dempsey and Jason Owen Hinton

UNODC No.:
GBR015

Fact Summary

Rong Chen was a manager of at least five brothels in Northern Ireland, three in Belfast, one in Londonderry and one in Newry. In each of the brothels, she provided brothel housekeepers who would receive instructions from her as to the appointments and receive payments from clients. Rong Chen visited the premises, collected money, maintained the properties and provided food for the women working in each brothel. The money generated over the period January 2008 to May 2009 reached about ₤280,000.

The customers were sought through newspaper advertisements and the prostitutes rotated between the various premises. It has not been possible to identify any of the prostitutes who worked in these brothels except for two Chinese nationals, D. and M.

The Court noted that Rong Chen had coerced four Chinese women who worked in these brothels – two as prostitutes (D. and M.) and two as brothel housekeepers (H. and T.). All of them had come to the United Kingdom either on visas which had expired or were illegal immigrants on arrival. Coercion was to be seen in the context that there was no evidence that any of them had been involved in prostitution prior to coming to Northern Ireland. The victims’ testimonies showed that the victims were isolated, frightened, exploited and threatened by various statements from Rong Chen (e.g. that her boyfriend was a member of a Triad gang, that her sister’s brother was a high ranking police officer or that they would be detained because of their illegal status). Further, the conditions inside the brothels were squalid.

Simon Dempsey was accused of assisting Rong Chen in renting properties for the purpose of prostitution, driving Rong Chen around Northern Ireland in connection with her activities of controlling prostitution, identifying rival brothels, driving prostitutes between brothels, collecting money from the brothels and dealing with criminal property by banking some of the proceeds.

Jason Owen Hinton was accused of assisting Rong Chen in arranging a large number of flights to Northern Ireland, in the knowledge that she was making those journeys for the purpose of controlling prostitution and taking part in a campaign of the attempted disruption of rival premises.

Commentary and Significant Features

The Court postponed the confiscation proceedings.

The legislation governing the offences changed over the period that the offending behaviour occurred. Section 53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 was replaced in respect of the period after 2nd February 2009 by Article 63 of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008. Accordingly, the accused faced two counts, one under Section 53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the other under Article 63 of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.

The offence of controlling prostitution for gain under Article 63(1) is in identical terms to section 53(1).  Under both a person commits the offence of controlling prostitution for gain if - (a) he intentionally controls any of the activities of another person relating to that person’s prostitution in any part of the world, and (b) he does so for or in the expectation of gain for himself or a third person.  Under both a person guilty of such an offence is liable on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years.

Sentence Date:
2012-07-06
Author:
The Human Rights Centre, School of Law, Queen's University, Belfast

Keywords

Acts:
Recruitment
Transportation
Transfer
Harbouring
Trafficking in Persons Protocol:
Article 3, Trafficking in Persons Protocol
Article 5, Trafficking in Persons Protocol
Form of Trafficking:
Internal
Transnational
Means:
Threat or use of force or other forms of coercion
Deception
Abuse of power or a position of vulnerability
Purpose of Exploitation:
Exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation
Sector in which exploitation takes place:
Commercial sexual exploitation

Cross Cutting

Liability

... for

• completed offence

... based on

• criminal intention

... as involves

• principal offender(s)

Offending

Involved Countries

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

• Gender Dimension

Victims / Plaintiffs in the first instance

Victim:
D.
Gender:
Female
Nationality:
Chinese
Age:
45
Victim:
M.
Gender:
Female
Nationality:
Chinese
Age:
47
Victim:
H.
Gender:
Female
Nationality:
Chinese
Age:
56
Victim:
T.
Gender:
Female
Nationality:
Chinese
Age:
48

Defendants / Respondents in the first instance

Defendant:
Rong Chen
Gender:
Female
Age:
35
Born:
1976
Legal Reasoning:

Rong Chen pleaded guilty to all counts.

The Court noted that Rong Chen had purely been focused on financial gain and had not considered the impact of her behaviour on the victims who had been kept against their will and exposed to a lifestyle of abuse. The Court further held that Chen had not considered the impact of her behaviour on the community as a whole or given consideration to the families that had been residing close to or in the vicinity of the brothels.

The Court noted the following aggravating features in relation to Rong Chen:

- A large scale commercial operation in respect of controlling prostitution for gain;

- Coercion and deception of all four victims;

- The offence and the related offence were planned;

- There was substantial financial gain involved in the related offence of controlling prostitution for gain;

- Four people were trafficked;

- The victims were vulnerable by reason of their limited means, their illegal immigrant status and their inability to speak English;

- The victims were not detained and could have left if they had the means and the courage to do so. As a consequence of the threats and their vulnerability, their liberty had been removed to a significant extent;

- The squalid conditions in which the victims were required to live;

- The isolation of the victims;

- The exposure of the victims to the risk of physical violence which risk in fact materialised; and

- The substantial period of offending.

Mitigating features in relation to Rong Chen:

- Chen pleaded guilty though not at the earliest stage;

- Chen had no previous convictions;  and

- Chen has shown remorse which the Court accepted to a significant extent but not completely given Chen’s egocentric attitudes.

The Court imposed concurrent sentences as the Court considered them to be more proportionate to the offending behaviour of Rong Chen than consecutive sentences:

- 7 years imprisonment for the offence of trafficking;

- 4 years imprisonment for the offences of controlling prostitution for gain; and

- 1 year imprisonment for the offence of entering into an arrangement to control criminal property.

The Court also specified the custodial period at the end of which Chen was to be released on license:

- one half of the term of 7 years imposed for trafficking;

- one half of one of the 4 years imposed for the offences of controlling prostitution for gain; and

- one half of 1 year sentence imposed for control of criminal property.

Defendant:
Simon Dempsey
Gender:
Male
Nationality:
British
Age:
42
Born:
1969
Legal Reasoning:

Simon Dempsey pleaded guilty to all counts.

The Court took into account that Dempsey had not gained financially, had not controlled or planned the criminal activities, had been involved for a limited period of time and his actions had been based on a misguided concept of friendship and a failure of appreciation as to the seriousness of the consequence of his activities. The Court noted that Simon Dempsey had expressed remorse for his actions and had demonstrated some understanding of the harm caused to the victims.

The Court further stated that the mitigating features in relation to Dempsey were:

- Dempsey pleaded guilty though not at the earliest stage;

- Dempsey had no previous convictions;

- Dempsey’s medical problems; and

- Dempsey’s remorse which the Court accepted as genuine.

The Court imposed a sentence of 9 months imprisonment for aiding and abetting the control of prostitution for gain and 3 months imprisonment for entering into an arrangement to control criminal property. All of the sentences were to run concurrently.

Defendant:
Jason Owen Hinton
Gender:
Male
Nationality:
British
Age:
44
Born:
1967
Legal Reasoning:

Jason Owen Hinton pleaded guilty to both counts.

Two medical reports confirmed that Hinton had a long history of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, suicide and self-harm attempts. The reports said that Hinton would most likely become severely depressed in a custodial environment and that there would be an increased risk of a serious self-harm. The reports further recommended that Hinton, if received a custodial sentence, should be referred to the prison mental health team.

The Court held that Hinton’s involvement was only peripheral. In mitigation the Court took a number of factors into account:

- Hinton pleaded guilty though not at the earliest stage;

- Hinton had no previous convictions;

- Hinton’s medical problems; and

- Hinton’s remorse though the Court noted that the probation officer stated that Hinton had been unable to express much in the way of empathy for the victims though he had expressed a good degree of remorse of the commission of the offences.

The Court imposed a sentence of community service order requiring Hinton to perform 220 hours of unpaid work for aiding and abetting the control of prostitution for gain.

Charges / Claims / Decisions

Defendant:
Rong Chen
Verdict:
Guilty
Charge / Claim:
Controlling prostitution for gain between 1st January 2008 and 2nd February 2009
Legislation / Statute / Code:

Section 53(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003

Verdict:
Guilty
Charge / Claim:
Controlling prostitution for gain between 1st February 2009 and 29th May 2009
Legislation / Statute / Code:

Article 63(1) of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008

Verdict:
Guilty
Charge / Claim:
Trafficking within the United Kingdom for the purposes of sexual exploitation
Legislation / Statute / Code:

Section 58(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003

Verdict:
Guilty
Charge / Claim:
Entering into an arrangement to control criminal property
Legislation / Statute / Code:

Section 328(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

Term of Imprisonment:
7 years
Compensation / Payment to Victim:
No     
Fine / Payment to State:
No       
Defendant:
Simon Dempsey
Verdict:
Guilty
Charge / Claim:
Aiding and abetting the control of prostitution for gain between 1st January 2008 and 2nd February 2009
Legislation / Statute / Code:

Section 53(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003

Verdict:
Guilty
Charge / Claim:
Aiding and abetting the control of prostitution for gain between 1st February 2009 and 29th May 2009
Legislation / Statute / Code:

Article 63(1) of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008

Verdict:
Guilty
Charge / Claim:
Three counts of entering into an arrangement to control criminal property
Legislation / Statute / Code:

Section 328(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

Term of Imprisonment:
 9 Months
Compensation / Payment to Victim:
No     
Fine / Payment to State:
No       
Defendant:
Jason Owen Hinton
Verdict:
Guilty
Charge / Claim:
Aiding and abetting the control of prostitution for gain between 1st January 2008 and 2nd February 2009
Legislation / Statute / Code:

Section 53(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003

Verdict:
Guilty
Charge / Claim:
Aiding and abetting the control of prostitution for gain between 1st February 2009 and May 2009
Legislation / Statute / Code:

Article 63(1) of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008

 
220 hours of community service
Compensation / Payment to Victim:
No     
Fine / Payment to State:
No       

Court

Belfast Crown Court

Sources / Citations

R v Rong Chen and Others [2012] NICC 26

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