Jail term for prostitute trafficker
A woman who controlled and trafficked prostitutes in Northern Ireland using threats of murder has been sentenced to seven years in prison.
Rong Chen, 35, conned women into coming to Northern Ireland believing they would work as child minders.
Instead the illegal immigrants worked as prostitutes or housekeepers while isolated in squalid flats and were threatened with violence and deportation should they try to escape.
Mr Justice Ben Stephens said: "You trafficked four women as an adjunct to and to facilitate a large-scale commercial operation of controlling prostitution for gain."
Chen told the women her husband was a Chinese Triad gang leader and boasted of high-level police contacts, Belfast Crown Court heard. She was caught after two prostitutes were detained at a port in Belfast in May 2009.
Mr Justice Stephens said Chen, from Kidderminster, Worcestershire in England, had regarded her victims' well-being as "inconsequential".
"You sexually exploited and degraded women as a commodity for financial gain, irrespective of the impact on them and their lives," he said. "There was coercion involved in that you, Rong Chen, coerced four of the women who worked in these brothels."
Two men convicted of aiding and abetting Chen in controlling prostitution, her husband Jason Hinton and former policeman Simon Dempsey from Northern Ireland, were also sentenced. Hinton was given a community service and Dempsey was jailed for nine months.
There were at least five brothels in Belfast, Newry in Co Down and Londonderry and victims were trafficked between them, the court heard.
The judge said Chen threatened the prostitutes with violence and murder after luring them to Northern Ireland with adverts in Chinese newspapers promising relatively well paid jobs. She used their illegal status to prevent them from contacting the authorities and controlled their movements - isolating them in dirty flats with little command of English and afraid of going to the police.