Belfast Telegraph

Belfast medical student ‘forced into sex work’

By Colin O'Carroll

A Northern Ireland medical student attending a Scottish university turned to vice after hitting hard financial times, a court has heard.

Glasgow Sheriff Court was told of statements given to police by two protected witnesses involved in the escort agency run by Stephen Craig, including a young Northern Ireland student forced into sex work to pay off debts.

The Belfast girl, who was studying at a leading Scottish university and working part-time to fund her education, was put into protection amid concerns for her safety.

The second vulnerable witness - a 23-year-old Bolivian - also reported her experience to the police.

Craig (34), of Clydebank, pleaded guilty last week to moving 14 men and women around the UK for sex between January 2009 and September 2010.

The father-of-two's co-accused Sarah Beukan (22), of Leith, Edinburgh admitted to committing the same offence between October 2009 and last September.

They were arrested on September 3, 2010 in co-ordinated police raids and are the first in Scotland to be convicted under new sex-trafficking legislation.

Craig now faces proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act after making money from his part in the operation.

Evidence of the involvement of both accused in the running of an organised criminal prostitution operation - working from addresses in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Newcastle - was collected during a police operation involving officers from various UK police forces.

The pair were snared after travel documents, internet and newspaper advertising, telecoms evidence and pre-paid credit cards which linked them to each other and key witnesses - who were sex workers - were found.

Prosecutor Mark Allan told the court that the "most significant" sources were accounts provided to police by prostitutes recruited to the criminal operation by Craig.

The court heard that after being employed by Craig they were housed in the various modern flats rented by him for the purpose of prostitution.

Mr Allan said: "In each flat over the period of the libel at least two, occasionally three prostitutes would work charging approximately £150 for an hour and £90 for half an hour."

The court was told of the accounts given by the young student.

Mr Allan said: "The vulnerable witness accounts are those of a young student who, through difficulties with debt, became involved initially in the sex industry within saunas in Edinburgh before moving to the criminal enterprise run by the accused.

"She described a feeling of relief when the police arrived and that cycle of her life had been broken."

Sheriff Sam Cathcart deferred sentence until next month for reports.

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