Sex ring couple given jail
Published 04/10/2011 | 01:09
A sex trafficker has made legal history after he was jailed for three years and four months for controlling prostitutes in Northern Ireland and in other parts of the UK.
In the first case of its kind in Scotland, Stephen Craig (34) was jailed for arranging travel, accommodation and advertising for 14 women in Belfast and other cities.
His co-accused, Sarah Beukan (22), was jailed for a year-and-a-half for her part in the human trafficking network operated by Craig.
They were the first people to be convicted in Scotland under new legislation covering trafficking within the UK. They admitted at an earlier hearing to moving 14 people to various addresses in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Newcastle to work as prostitutes.
The women were moved around the UK to work at all of the premises. Those living in the UK illegally would travel to Belfast by ferry and around the rest of the country by train.
Pre-paid credit cards were used to transfer money and pay for the rental of properties, so the women would not carry cash when they travelled.
They also provided accommodation for the women to work out of, advertised their services in newspapers and online, and took a cut from their wages.
Craig, from Clydebank, and Beukan, from Leith in Edinburgh, pleaded guilty under Section 22 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 at Glasgow Sheriff Court on September 9.
As well as being involved in the management of the scheme, Beukan also worked as a prostitute herself.
Craig and Beukan, a couple, had been running four brothels in Glasgow, one in Aberdeen, and another in Queens Square, Belfast.
Searches of these properties were carried out on September 26 last year and police found evidence in all of them.
Mobile phones, laptops and diaries were all seized and suggested the brothels were being run by the same people.
Two females and a male client were found at the Belfast property, all of whom were UK nationals.
They gave evidence to police that the brothels were being run by an organised crime group.
The court heard how a Belfast girl studying medicine at a top Scottish university, who turned to vice after hitting hard times, had given her account to police.
Prosecutor Mark 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."
Passing sentence at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Sheriff Cathcart told Craig and Beukan there was no alternative to custody.
He said that, by their actions, they had "exerted control, direction or influence" over the movements of the women.
The trafficking came to light following a joint initiative by Strathclyde Police and the PSNI.
Detective Inspector Douglas Grant of the PSNI Organised Crime Branch said: "Criminal gangs who seek to make money by exploiting vulnerable women should be in no doubt that PSNI will work with partner agencies in any jurisdiction to frustrate, disrupt and dismantle them."
When the PSNI raided a brothel at Belfast's Queens Square apartments in July 2010 they found 'Witness A' - a Belfast woman who was a second-year medical student at a top Scottish university - inside. A detective told an earlier bail hearing that when police raided the apartment Witness A "screamed" that she was the victim of human trafficking. She claimed to have been forced to work as a sex slave in Northern Ireland and Scotland by a crime gang.