Sydney councils pay investigators to have sex with prostitutes

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

It has been revealed that nine councils in Sydney, Australia have paid AUD$25,000 in investigator's fees over the past three years in order to gather evidence against illegal brothels.

The Sunday Telegraph has reported Ku-ring-gai council paying $7,000 worth of investigators fees in the last month. Mayor Nick Ebbeck said the investigations actually include having sex with prostitutes in order to satisfy courts.

"We, like many other councils, have made a decision to pro-actively rid our community of these illegal brothels," said Mr Ebbeck.

"We have to employ private investigators to actually go through with the act and come up with reports that will suffice in a court process.

"On numerous occasions over numerous days and times they had to fulfill the act."

Evidence gathered by investigators has been used to close down two brothels this month. The council is set to look at five more premises at a cost of around $3,500 per case. For the fee, the council is provided with a statement and a detailed account of the encounter. On occasion a video recording is provided.

Under New South Wales law, local councils have to bear the onus of proof when dealing with illegal brothels in the state's land and environment court.

Willoughby Council has also admitted engaging in the practice. According to The Sunday Telegraph, investigators were paid $1,500 for two visits to prostitutes earlier in the month. Willoughby's Director of Environmental Services said the council solicitor managed brothel investigations.

Speaking of the programme's success, Mr Woodhams said over the last "couple of weeks" they were successful in closing a premises on Willoughby Road. He said the difficulty was making a case before the court.

"The difficulty is gaining evidence to make a case to the Land and Environment Court," he said.

"In each year, it could be potentially tens of thousands of dollars in private investigators and legal costs that councils have to bear."

Other councils said to have engaged in the practice are North Sydney and Sutherland Shire.

There are a fair number of legally licensed brothels operating in Sydney which adhere to strict guidelines, however there are a number of unlicensed premises which also operate.

The New South Wales opposition has introduced legislation twice in recent years to move the onus of proof from councils and onto brothel operators. Peta Seaton, Liberal MP for the Southern Highlands attacked the Labor government for voting against the legislation.

"I have put all the evidence that people will be looking at today on the record in Parliament in respect of these and other councils, but in the face of private detective's reports and all the information that's in the media, Labor still voted this down on two occasions," she said.

The legislation was voted down in 2002 and 2003 by the Carr-led government.

Premier of New South Wales since August 2005, Morris Iemma said he would encourage councils to seek changes from the government but stopped short of announcing his own proposition.

"The enforcement of this area of the law is with councils," Mr Iemma said.

"If the Local Government Association or the councils have got a proposition they wish to put to the government that would ease their burden on cracking down on the illegal activity then I'm happy to consider that," Mr Iemma said.