29/05/2009

NI Prostitution Ring Broken-up

A high profile police operation against prostitution took place yesterday. The PSNI allowed TV cameras to film a raid on a Belfast house alleged to be operating as a brothel.

After the officers forced entry to the building, several women, said to be victims of human trafficking were led away.

Officers were intent on rescuing the women as they moved to smash what they said was a prostitution ring run by the Chinese mafia.

One man was arrested in Belfast and a man and woman were also detained in Kidderminster, England during a co-ordinated operation across the UK.

All of the rescued women are understood to be Chinese nationals who police believe were tricked to come to Northern Ireland on the promise of cleaning and nannying jobs.

They were then forced into prostitution under threat of extreme violence to them or their families, according to officers.

Five were removed in dramatic morning raids by armed officers on the two otherwise ordinary terrace houses in the Lisburn Road area of Belfast.

Police Tactical Support teams forced their way inside with battering rams, as TV cameras recorded the action.

Five women were removed in Belfast and another woman was found when police swooped on a property in Londonderry.

PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Essie Adair told the BBC that the operation was the culmination of a six-month investigation.
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His officers were initially assisted by two trafficking victims who had been rescued earlier this year, he said, continuing that: "Today has been a significant outcome.

"We have six females rescued as victims of human trafficking, we have three arrests in relation to human trafficking and criminal prostitution.

"Our evidence is that these victims are the subject of horrendous living conditions, they have been subjected to violence to force them into becoming prostitutes so there is a very high level of fear among these women."

Mr Adair also said the Chinese crime gang was based on mainland UK but had heavily infiltrated Northern Ireland.

The PSNI-led operation involved officers from the West Midlands and West Mercia police forces.

The UK-wide Serious Organised Crime Agency's Vulnerable Persons Unit also provided support.

It later emerged that the suspect arrested in Belfast is a 39-year-old local man.

The 40-year-old woman taken into custody in Kidderminster is Chinese while the other man held man, who is 41, is believed to be from Great Britain.

The detective said police were committed to tackling the growing problems of human trafficking.

Earlier this year new legislation on sexual offences was introduced in NI.

Tougher new penalties now target kerb crawling and prostitution with a maximum life sentence for the perpetrators of rape and serious sexual assaults.

Justice Minister Paul Goggins said in February that the the new laws were designed to protect the most vulnerable in society.

See: Major Reform Of NI Sex Laws

(BMcC/JM)

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