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Northern Ireland's first human trafficking conviction is handed down

By Michael Donnelly

A Dublin-based restaurateur has been handed a three-year sentence for trafficking foreign women into Northern Ireland for sexual exploitation – the first conviction of its kind here.

Matyas Pis (38), from Gaybrook Lawns in Dublin, appeared in court yesterday where he was convicted for his part in a European crime gang which brought women to Belfast to work as prostitutes.

The Hungarian-born man was sentenced after admitting four charges including trafficking two women from eastern Europe to Belfast between December 2011 and March last year. He also admitted controlling prostitution and running a brothel from an apartment in the Titanic Quarter.

Pis was the first person in Northern Ireland to be sentenced for human trafficking in what the PSNI has described as a “significant” conviction.

Yesterday, Judge Tom Burgess said “women, men and even children” are being trafficked into Northern Ireland for prostitution.

It was accepted Pis was not the usual type of case where victims had been forced either through coercion or threats of violence to travel to foreign lands to work as prostitutes.

However, Judge Burgess said that one could not ignore that “human trafficking is a global problem and we should not be blind to the fact that it is happening right now in Northern Ireland”.

“Women, men and even children are being brought to this country — often against their will — for the purposes of sexual exploitation,” he said.

“They are trafficked by individuals and gangs who give no thought to their suffering, but are solely motivated by their own financial gain.”

Pis — who was ordered to serve 18 months imprisonment, followed by 18 months supervised parole — will be freed within five months because of time already spent in custody.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Inspector Douglas Grant, said: “Today’s outcome is significant because it is the first human trafficking conviction to be secured in Northern Ireland.”

He said the two women had been trafficked from Slovakia through the Republic and into the north “for the sole purpose of sexual exploitation”.

Mr Grant also described this type of criminal act as “modern day slavery”.

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