– The new sex industry police unit – created by the Baillieu government one year ago in a bid to crack down on crime in the sex industry – is hamstrung by lack of resources and has not charged any illegal brothel operators since its inception.
The unit has managed to shut down one illegal parlour but is not directly policing them – instead focusing its enforcement and monitoring activities on licensed brothels.
Frustrated licensees of legal brothels have resorted to vigilante action, sending spies into illegal parlours. They have given police statutory declarations swearing they received sexual services at five illegal brothels around Melbourne – all of them close to police or politicians’ offices, including Ted Baillieu’s office in Camberwell.
Police are also understood to have been provided last year with a further list of 62 premises suspected of providing illegal sex – all of which are believed to still be operating.
Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien removed responsibility for policing sex work crimes from his portfolio with laws introduced in 2011, creating the Sex Industry Coordination Unit (SICU) to lead enforcement.
He said at the time the changes heralded an increased commitment and would remove barriers to Victoria Police taking action against illegal brothel operators and properly balance the responsibilities of law enforcement agencies and licensing authorities.
Consumer Affairs kept a role in regulating licensed brothels.
The changes followed a series of reports on lax enforcement against criminal elements in Melbourne’s legal and illegal brothels, allegations of trafficking in legal brothels and the case of a Yarra Council worker who admitted accepting bribes from illegal parlours across the city.
Australian Adult Entertainment Industry spokesman William Albon said a five-person police unit was one-third the size that police had originally planned and was clearly insufficient to tackle what he estimated were more than 250 illegal brothels in Victoria. There are about 100 licensed brothels.
When the creation of SICU as the lead agency in charge of enforcement was announced last year, Victoria Police Superintendent Pauline Kostiuk told Fairfax Media that enforcement against brothels wouldn’t be given the priority if left to local CIUs [crime investigation units].
But that is exactly what has happened, with SICU taking a role in intelligence sharing but leaving enforcement against illegal premises to local authorities. The unit, instead, has taken a more direct enforcement role against licensed brothels, where it is understood it has found several suspected instances of trafficking.
So far, the squad has formally interviewed nine people about offences including employing a child as a sex worker, drug possession, dealing in proceeds of crime, employing workers in breach of visa conditions and illegal prostitution.
But most of those people – six of the nine – were from licensed premises. No charges have been laid over illegal brothels and only two charges have been laid in relation to alleged offences at legal brothels.
SICU coordinated an investigation against the licensee of the Moorabbin brothel Club Keys Studio, Lynette Elizabeth Farrar, and her manager, who were charged with offences relating to having an under-age girl working in the brothel. The case is still before the courts.
The situation appears to have changed little since Consumer Affairs had the lead role in
sex industry enforcement, despite the government’s claims last year that there was increased commitment to tackling criminality in the sex industry.
SICU still does not have any estimate on how many illegal brothels are operating across the state. Senior Sergeant Marilyn Ross of SICU, which turned one-year-old this week, told Fairfax Media: “How long is a piece of string? It’s so transient. It’s there one day, gone the next. It’s the online advertising that makes it hard to police”.
She said harm minimisation was the priority in a resource-strapped environment, that is the issue we have”. She said the protection of vulnerable sex workers such as minors or suspected trafficking victims would be the priority every time.
She said the new regime was going to be something that just takes time for everyone to work out. Definitely it’s the right way to go.
Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien, who announced the changes in 2011, refused a Fairfax Media interview request – Maris Beck


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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