Call For Harsher Pimp Sentencing

A women’s organisation has called for tougher sentencing after a pimp was jailed in Belfast for four months. Michael Hill, 39, of Plantation Avenue, Carrickfergus, admitted controlling prostitutes for gain.

Annie Campbell, director of Women’s Aid Federation NI, called for “robust legal sanctions” to protect women. “It is vital there are adequate safeguards to protect women being exploited and the miserable reality of prostitution is exposed,” she said.

Hill admitted the charge in a lower court, with limited sentencing powers. The women were flown in from overseas and Hill collected them from an airport then acted as their bodyguard while they worked as prostitutes in two city centre apartments.

His defence solicitor said there was no question of any “paramilitary or gangland involvement” in the operation, nor was there any suggestion of “underage sex or people trafficking”. He described Hill as a “small cog”.

Ms Campbell said it was “very encouraging” that the case had been brought to court, but that the short sentence sent the wrong message.

The SDLP’s John Dallat also criticised the sentence as “derisory”. “It was said that Hill was a small cog in a much bigger wheel but unless the wheels of justice get properly in motion the bigger cogs will remain at large and will have little to fear,” he said.

At Wednesday’s hearing Belfast Crown Court Judge Kennedy said her powers of sentencing had been limited because Hill had pleaded guilty to the offence at Belfast Magistrates Court – where the maximum sentence is six months.

She said if he had come to her court “by another route” he could have faced up to seven years jail.