Australia: High Court ruling gives surety & confidence to women prosecuting against sex slavery
Thursday August 28, 2008
High Court upholds brothel slavery convictions
The High Court has upheld the validity of Australia's anti-slavery laws.
In 2006 a Melbourne brothel owner, Wei Tang, was convicted of enslaving five Thai women.
She was the first person to be convicted under anti-slavery laws introduced in 1999 and was sentenced to 10 years' jail.
The Victorian Court of Appeal quashed the convictions and ordered a new trial.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions appealed against the quashing to the High Court.
Today, the High Court upheld the slavery convictions of the brothel owner and overturned the orders for a new trial.
The Court held that the Federal Parliament had the power to make laws as part of its obligations under the international slavery convention and found there was enough evidence provided during the trial of Wei Tang to meet the definition of slavery.
Kathleen Maltzahn of Project Respect, says hundreds of women are trafficked to Australia each year and enslaved for prostitution.
"A whole lot of cases that have been banked up waiting for this to go ahead, can proceed with a very clear legal framework," she said.
"We know what slavery is now. And this will present a great deal of confidence and surety when people are trying to prosecute for this."
The Age ~~ Melbourne ~~ Thursday August 28 2008
Brothel owner's sex slave conviction 10 year sentence upheld
Wei Tang. (Photo: Craig Abraham)
Brothel owner's sex slave conviction 10 year sentence upheldThe High Court has upheld the convictions of a Melbourne brothel owner who became the first person found guilty of possessing and using sex slaves in Australia.
- Order overturnedBrothel owner Wei Tang was found guilty in 2006 of five counts of possessing a slave and five counts of exercising a power of ownership over a slave.
- Women enslaved
- Jail sentence
She was sentenced to 10 years' jail for her role in enslaving five Thai women at her brothel, Club 417, and forcing them to work off debts of up to $45,000.
But in June last year, Tang successfully appealed her convictions in the Victorian Court of Appeal.
The court quashed her convictions and ordered a new trial, ruling the directions given to the jury were inadequate.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions appealed that decision to the High Court.
Tang cross-appealed against the order for a new trial.
The High Court today overturned the Court of Appeal's order for a new trial and held that the prosecution made out the required elements of the offences.
Tang was the first person to be found guilty by a jury under the federal anti-slavery laws introduced in 1999.
The case came to light after Club 417, in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy, was raided in 2003.
A Victorian County Court jury in Melbourne found her guilty of the counts after an eight-week trial and was sentenced to jail for a minimum of six years.
The five Thai women worked six days a week serving up to 600 customers to pay their debt.
If they worked a seventh day, they could keep the $50 per customer.
The women were not under lock and key but had little money, limited English, worked long hours and feared they would be found by immigration authorities.
Their visas had been obtained illegally and their passports were withheld by Tang.