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R. v. Shaban Maka

[2005] EWCA Crim 3365

Court of Appeal

CA (Crim Div)

(Lord Justice Rose (Vice President, Court of Appeal, Criminal Division), Mr

Justice Simon and Mrs Justice Dobbs):

November 16, 2005

Aggravating features; Deterrence; Totality of sentence; Trafficking for sexual exploitation

Trafficking for sexual exploitation--trafficking young girl into the United Kingdom and repeatedly selling her for the purposes of prostitution-- length of sentence

Sentences totalling 18 years upheld in the case of a man who trafficked a 15-year-old girl into the United Kingdom and repeatedly sold her to others for the purposes of prostitution.

The appellant was convicted of trafficking into the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation, contrary to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, s.57(1), trafficking within the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation, contrary to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, s.58(1) and pleaded guilty to two counts of trafficking within the United Kingdom. A 15-year-old girl who was a Lithuanian national was tricked into coming to the United Kingdom by the promise of a well-paid job. She was met by the appellant when she arrived and her passport was taken away from her; she was then taken to a house where she spent the night. The following day, the girl was sold to another man for £4,000. This man raped the girl and then forced her to work as a prostitute in a brothel for several days. She escaped and contacted the appellant. The appellant picked her up and together with the other man sold her to a third man who put her to work in a brothel. She escaped from the second brothel and contacted the appellant again. The appellant met her and sold her to a third man. She was subsequently sold to a fourth man. She ran away from him and was subsequently sold to a fifth man who raped her and forced her to work in a brothel for about a week. The victim again returned to the appellant and was sold again to a sixth man who raped her several times and told her she would have to work in a brothel. The girl then managed to escape and went to the police. The appellant was sentenced to a total of 18 years' imprisonment and recommended for deportation.

Held: the sentencing judge stated that human trafficking was an international problem which produced untold misery throughout the world. The conduct had echoes of slavery with the victim being sold from one procurer to another. The sentencing judge had regard to the principle of totality. He took account of the appellant's previous good character and observed that the girl, having set off full of hope because she was naive and vulnerable, finished up disorientated, assaulted, threatened, friendless, controlled, and frequently having to engage in sexual intercourse when she did not want to in an alien environment. The appellant was totally indifferent to her suffering. He knew how old she was and he had arranged to sell her into prostitution. He was responsible for trafficking her up and down the country against her will for profit. A small discount would be given for the pleas of guilty on the counts to which the appellant pleaded guilty. It was submitted for the appellant that the judge's starting point was too high and failed to reflect the fact that there was a single victim and the offences took place over a period of two months. The Court had been referred to case of R. v Plakici [2005] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 19, 83 in which a sentence of 10 years imposed in the Crown Court was increased to 23 years in relation to a variety of offences, some of them similar to the present trafficking offences. It was to be noted that the maximum penalty prescribed for trafficking was 14 years' imprisonment while the maximum sentences available for the offences in that case, apart from rape and kidnapping, was 10 years. In that case there were a considerable number of women involved, the sums of money were greater than those in the present case and the offender's activity in that case was over a longer period. The intention of the legislature in introducing the offence of trafficking for sexual exploitation by the Sexual Offences Act 2003 was plainly to embrace a wide variety of different forms of conduct identifiable as trafficking for sexual exploitation. The Court derived some assistance from the level of sentence imposed in case of R. v Plakici [2005] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 19, 83, subject to the differences to which attention had been drawn. It would have been open to the judge in the present case to structure the sentences in a variety of different ways. Accepting, as the Court did, that a sentence of nine years in relation to count one of trafficking into the United Kingdom was if viewed in isolation, excessive, the crucial question which the Court had to address was whether the total sentence passed, following a trial in relation to three of the counts and pleas of guilty in relation to two of them, was an appropriate reflection of the gravity of this appalling repeated conduct in relation to an unwilling girl of 15. In the Court's judgment the total sentence which the judge passed was severe but appropriately so, because deterrence of those who were minded to take part in activities of this kind was a highly material consideration. The Court was unpersuaded that the sentences of 18 years could be categorised as manifestly excessive or wrong in principle. The appeal would be dismissed.

Representation

R. Baradell for the appellant.

Miss S. Wright for the Crown.

JUDGMENT

The Vice President:

1 On February 21, 2005 at Sheffield Crown Court, before H.H. Judge Keen Q.C., this appellant pleaded guilty to counts 3 and 6 in the indictment. On March 15 he was convicted by the jury on counts 1, 2 and 7. The following day he was sentenced in this way: on count 1, trafficking into the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation contrary to s.57(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, nine years' imprisonment; on counts 2 and 7, both of which were trafficking within the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation, contrary to s.58(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, he was sentenced to nine years' imprisonment on each concurrently but that nine years was ordered to run consecutively to the nine years on count 1; on counts 3 and 6, trafficking within the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation contrary to s.58(1), he was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment on both concurrently and concurrently to the nine year sentence on count 2. The total sentence was therefore 18 years' imprisonment and a recommendation was made for him to be deported. He appeals against sentence by leave of the single judge, granted in the light of the absence of any authority in this Court in relation to offences of this kind.

2 There were co-accused, a man called Barjami was convicted on count 1, trafficking into the United Kingdom, on counts 2 and 13 of trafficking within the United Kingdom, on count 8 of false imprisonment and on counts 9 to 12, of rape: he was sentenced to a total of 15 years' imprisonment. A second co-accused called Pisha was convicted on count 4 of false imprisonment, and on count 5 of trafficking within the United Kingdom and he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. The appellant's girlfriend, Lina Yunel, was acquitted by the jury.

3 The facts were these. A 15-year-old girl, who was a Lithuanian national was tricked by people in Lithuania into coming to this country by the promise of a well paid job. Her flight here was arranged and she travelled with one of the Lithuanian organisers to Heathrow where she arrived in the early evening of July 12, 2004. The appellant, who lived in Sheffield, had travelled to Heathrow to meet her. He did so. After she had landed, her passport was taken away from her. She was taken by the appellant and others to a bar and then driven into Central London, where she spent the night in a house. Those matters gave rise to count 1.

4 The next day, and these matters gave rise to count 2, she was sold to a man called Bledi for £4,000. He raped her, and then forced her to work as a prostitute in a brothel in Birmingham for several days. She escaped. She contacted the appellant. He picked her up. Together with Bledi, he took her to Coventry. There, in circumstances giving rise to count 3, to which, it will be recalled, the appellant pleaded guilty, she was sold to the co-accused, Pisha, for £3,000. Again, she was put to work in a brothel. After about an hour, she escaped. Again, she contacted the appellant. Again, he picked her up. He took her to London. There, in circumstances giving rise to count 6, to which the appellant pleaded guilty, he sold her to a man called Lade. He tried to have intercourse with her but she refused. The next day, she was sold to another man. She ran away from him and was subsequently sold to yet another man, who raped her and forced her to work in a brothel for about a week. She managed to get away. Again she returned to the appellant.

5 On about September 6 the appellant took her from London to Sheffield, where she was sold, yet again, to Barjami for £1,500. He raped her several times and told her she would have to work in a brothel. On September 11 he took her to a nightclub. She managed to escape with the help of two other girls. This time she went to a police station and described her ordeal.

6 The appellant was subsequently arrested. In interview he denied the offences.

7 The learned judge in passing sentence made a number of observations which are pertinent and bear repetition. Human trafficking, he said, was an international problem, a degrading activity producing untold misery throughout the world. About 120,000 women are trafficked from the East to the West annually, and that trafficking is apparently increasing at the rate of 10 per cent a year, and presently there are something of the order of 1,750 women here who have been subjected to it. Lithuanians are particularly vulnerable and since that country entered the European Union trafficking has increased. Lithuanian criminals are targeting this country because membership of the European Union makes it much easier to get women in. The judge commented that this sort of conduct has echoes of slavery, with the girl being sold from one procurer to another. The judge had regard, in fixing the appropriate sentences, to the principle of totality. He took into account that the appellant, who is a Macedonian born in 1980, was previously of good character. He commented that the girl, having set off from Lithuania full of hope, because of the appellant and because she was naive and vulnerable, finished up disorientated, assaulted, threatened, friendless, controlled and frequently having to engage in sexual intercourse when she did not want to, in an alien environment. The judge also commented that the appellant was well aware, throughout, of the suffering which he was causing and, although he had played no part in the sexual intercourse to which she had been subjected, he was, at best, totally indifferent to her suffering. He had shown no remorse. He was one of the prime movers in relation to this girl. He knew how old she was and he had arranged with others to sell her into prostitution. He was responsible for trafficking her up and down the country, against her will, for profit, and had behaved in a totally heartless way so her life was permanently scarred. The judge went on to indicate that a small discount would be given for the pleas of guilty on counts 3 and 6 and that the sentences passed in relation to those offences would, as we said at the outset of this judgment, be ordered to run concurrently with the other sentences which he imposed.

8 In an admirably succinct submission, Mr Barradell, on behalf of the appellant, submits, first, that the judge's starting point was too high and failed properly to reflect the counts on the indictment, bearing in mind that there were others more seriously involved in Lithuania, that the victim was only a single victim and that the period of time, some two months, over which the appellant had behaved in the way described was of moderate length. Mr Barradell accepted that there must have been significant planning, as clearly there must, not only in Lithuania but also in this country, in the way the appellant journeyed from Sheffield to Heathrow and thereafter dealt with this girl in different parts of this country. Mr Barradell, secondly, submits that it was not necessary to pass consecutive sentences, each of the order of nine years. Thirdly, he submits that nine years was itself an excessive sentence on count 1, in relation to the character of the activity involved in that importation of this girl. His final submission is that the total sentence was too long, although he accepted that a substantial sentence was appropriate.

9 This Court has been referred to case of R. v Plakici [2005] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 19, 83 in which a sentence of 10 years in the court below was increased, on an Attorney General's Reference, to 23 years in relation to a variety of offences, some of them similar to and some dissimilar from the present trafficking offences. It is to be noted that the maximum penalty now prescribed for trafficking is 14 years' imprisonment; the maximum sentences available for the offences in Plakici, apart from rape and kidnapping, was 10 years. It is to be noted that there were a considerable number of women involved in Plakici, that the sums of money were considerably greater than those in the present case and that the offender's activity in that case was over a longer period than in the present case. That said, all the victims in that case were 16 or more years of age.

10 The intention of the legislature in introducing the offence of trafficking for sexual exploitation, by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, was plainly to embrace a wide variety of different forms of conduct, identifiable as trafficking, for sexual exploitation. As Mr Barradell rightly recognises, the legislation contemplates that trafficking may be for the purposes of a whole range of sexual offences from rape downwards.

11 We derive some assistance from the level of sentence imposed in Plakici, subject to the differences to which we have already drawn attention. It is clear that it would have been open to the judge in the present case to structure the sentences which he passed in a variety of different ways. It would have been possible for him to have passed consecutive sentences on counts 2 and 7. It would have been possible for him to have passed consecutive sentences on counts 3 and 6.

12 Accepting, as we do, that a sentence of nineyears in relation to count 1 of trafficking into the United Kingdom was, if viewed in isolation, excessive, the crucial question which we have to address is whether the total sentence passed by the learned judge, following a trial in relation to three of the counts and pleas of guilty in relation to two of them, was an appropriate or inappropriate reflection of the gravity of this appalling, repeated, conduct in relation to an unwilling girl of only 15. The many aggravating features have already been identified in our recital of the facts. We highlight, in particular, the merciless way in which the appellant repeatedly made money from returning this girl who was not a prostitute to the certainty of rape and degradation when it was to him that she had turned for refuge.

13 In our judgment, the total sentence which the judge passed in was a severe one. It was appropriately severe, because deterrence of those in Lithuania, or other Eastern European countries, or, indeed, in any other part of Europe, as well of to those, in this country, who take part in activities of this kind, is a highly material consideration.

14 Despite Mr Barradell's informed advocacy, we are unpersuaded that in the circumstances of this case a sentence of 18 years could be categorised as manifestly excessive, or wrong in principle. Accordingly this appeal is dismissed.