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A man and a woman have been arrested and charged for allegedly
forcing females aged between 17 and 24 years to work as
Police allege the females were systematically plied with drugs,
branded with tattoos marking ownership and not paid for their
Matthew James Markcrowis, who is currently in custody, is facing
charges in Queensland of:
- Conducting a business involving servitude,
- Conducting a business of unlawful prostitution, and
- Making recordings in breach of privacy.
His co-accused, 23-year old Crystal Marie Sawyer, is facing
- Conducting a business of unlawful prostitution,
- Contravening an order under the Queensland Criminal Code,
- Failing to provide the
passcode to her mobile phone and laptop, which was found in a
unit connected to the alleged prostitution business.
Ms Sawyer had previously been found guilty of engaging in
prostitution through unlawful prostitution business. She received a
$1200 fine with no conviction recorded for that offence, as in
Queensland – unlike in New South Wales – it is possible
to receive a fine without a criminal conviction.
She was granted bail with conditions preventing her from
attending specified locations or containing certain people,
including the co-accused Mr Markcrow.
In Queensland, prostitution in licensed brothels is legal, but
street prostitution is illegal.
It is also against the law to operate a brothel without a proper
The nature of this particular operation which sets it apart is
that one of the alleged sex workers
had the tattoo ‘Property of Matt M’ on her body.
Such markings are not uncommon in prostitution rings overseas,
particularly Eastern Europe, where those placed in sexual servitude
have the name of their pimp or boss tattooed on their bodies as a
mark of ‘ownership’.
Queensland police also allege that the the young women were not
given any of the money they earned, and may not have even realised
they were being exploited.
Police believe the women lived with Mr Markcrowis and Ms Sawyer
in a home in the southern suburbs of Brisbane, and were transported
to an apartment in the city to provide sexual services.
They allege that Ms Sawyer had, and continues to have, a degree
of control over the women, and that the women involved, all of whom
are Australian citizens, were approached via social media.
When does conduct relating to prostitution become a crime in
New South Wales decriminalised prostitution in the late
Licensed brothels are legal in NSW, but their operations are
subject to strict rules and regulations.
In addition to this,
the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW) contains a number of
summary offences (meaning offences dealt with in the local court
rather than referred to a higher court) surrounding the provision
of sex work.
These summary offences are:
Section 15: Living on the earnings of prostitution not
associated with a registered brother, 12 month maximum prison
Section 15A: Causing or inducing prostitution by coercion, 12
month maximum prison term;
Section 16: Prostitution or soliciting in massage parlours, 3
month maximum prison term;
Section 17: Allowing certain premises to be used for
prostitution, 12 month maximum prison term;
Section 18: Advertising premises used for prostitution, 3 month
maximum prison term;
Section 18A: Advertising for prostitutes, 3 month maximum
Section 19: Soliciting clients near a dwelling, school, church or
hospital, 3 month maximum prison term; and
Section 19A: Soliciting prostitutes near a dwelling, school, church
or hospital, 3 month maximum prison term.
The offence of causing sexual servitude in NSW
In addition to these offences,
section 80D of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) makes is an
offence punishable by a prison term of up to 15 years to cause
To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond
reasonable doubt that:
- You caused another person to enter or remain in sexual
- You intended to do so, or were reckless in that regard.
‘Sexual servitude’ is where a person:
- Provides sexual services due to threats or force, and
- Is not free to cease providing the services, or is not free to
leave the place where the services are being provided.
‘Sexual service’ is the commercial use or display of the
body for the sexual arousal or gratification of others.
The maximum penalty increases to 20 years in prison where the
offence is committed in ‘circumstances of aggravation’
which is where the complainant:
- Was under the age of 18 years, or
- Had a cognitive impairment.
A person has a ‘cognitive impairment’ if he or she
requires assistance in daily life due to:
- An intellectual disability,
- A developmental or neurological disorder
- Severe mental illness
- Dementia, or
- Brain injury.
Defence to prostitution-related offences
Legal defences to prostitution offences include self-defence,
necessity and duress.
Duress is the most frequently used defence, and is where:
- You received a threat of death or serious injury to yourself, a
member of your family or another person you might reasonably feel
- The threat was of such a nature that a person of ordinary
strength and will, of the same sex and strength as you would have
yielded to it, and
- Would as a result have committed the offence.
To rely on the defence, there must be evidence before the court
that is capable of supporting a reasonable inference you acted
Once that evidence is before the court, the prosecution must
disprove duress ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
If it is unable to do so, you are entitled to an acquittal.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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