Scotland

Two Scots admit sex trafficking across UK

Sarah Beukan
Image caption Sarah Beukan moved 14 men and women around the UK for sex

Two people have pleaded guilty to sex trafficking in the first convictions in Scotland under new legislation.

Stephen Craig, 34, and Sarah Beukan, 22, admitted moving 14 men and women to various addresses in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Newcastle for prostitution.

They were caught after a joint operation by Strathclyde Police and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Brothels across the UK were raided and trafficking victims rescued.

Two other men, Malcolm McNeil and Gordon Dryburgh, had their pleas of not guilty accepted by the Crown.

Sentence on Craig and Beukan was deferred.

A support group that worked with some of the victims in the case said they had been through an "unimaginable ordeal".

Craig, from Clydebank, and Beukan of Leith, Edinburgh, pleaded guilty on the day their trial was due to start, saving more than 200 witnesses from giving evidence.

'Complex operation'

Craig had originally been prosecuted in Northern Ireland before the proceedings were transferred to Scotland.

Appearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court, he admitted sex trafficking between January 2009 and September 2010.

He now faces proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act after making money from his part in the operation.

Beukan admitted committing the offence between October 2009 and September 2010.

It is understood they were the first to be charged under section 22 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, new legislation designed to deal with a range of offences involving "traffic for prostitution".

Scottish police forces have succeeded in freeing numerous sex workers they believe to have been trafficked, but they have found it very difficult to convince the victims in such cases to make formal complaints.

Police said Operation Factor, which led to the convictions and also involved the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal service, was a "complex and protracted" one.

Det Insp Stephen Grant from Strathclyde Police's major investigation teams said: "Human beings are not products which can ever be bought and sold and this will never be tolerated.

"These despicable individuals took advantage of desperate and vulnerable people and were willing to trade misery for profit.

"Many agencies took part in Operation Factor, all with a common goal of keeping people safe."

Craig had also been charged with managing the men and women and living on earnings from prostitution, along with Mr McNeil, from Hamilton and Mr Dryburgh, of Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire.

Beukan had also been accused of managing prostitutes and arranging accommodation and advertising for them at various addresses in Glasgow and Aberdeen, between January 2009 and September 2010.

Craig was also accused of being concerned in the supply of cocaine.

All of the pleas of not guilty by each of the accused were accepted for these charges.

'Abhorrent activity'

Craig and Beukan were remanded in custody.

A detective had previously told a court in Northern Ireland that Strathclyde Police had seized £2.3m of assets connected to Craig.

The officer was giving evidence at a hearing in Belfast last October when former co-accused Malcolm McNeill tried to get bail in relation to the sex trafficking charges.

It was also claimed Craig was part of a gang who spent £50,000 on advertising brothels in newspapers and that another £10,000 had been spent on travel costs bringing in prostitutes for work.

Three of the victims involved in the case, all women in their 20s, received support from Trafficking Alliance Raising Awareness (Tara) which is run by Glasgow City Council.

A spokeswoman said: "This conviction is a fantastic result which should send a clear warning to other criminals engaged in this type of abhorrent activity.

"Human trafficking is akin to slavery and Craig and Beukan exploited their victims in the most appalling manner using threats of violence and intimidation to control them.

"The frightened women which Tara supported have been through an unimaginable ordeal but bravely prepared to give evidence against their persecutors."

She added: "Knowing that Craig and Beukan are facing many years behind bars is a small comfort to them but at least they were spared one final indignity and did not have to give evidence in court.

"Hopefully this prosecution will encourage other victims to come forward in the knowledge that their suffering will be taken seriously and the perpetrators prosecuted."

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