A prolific pimp who preyed on vulnerable women, coercing many of them into prostitution and forcing them to have unprotected sex with him and with a multitude of customers was handed a five year sentence today (Wednesday).
However, with an order for the sentence to be served half in jail and half on licence, 59-year-old Martin Heaney will be set free within hours as he has already served more than the equivalent waiting for his case to progress.
Heaney also became the first person in Northern Ireland to be made subject to a Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order which places numerous restrictions on the depraved pervert for the next seven years including where he lives, what work he does, who he can socialise with and what devices he can have such as mobile phones or laptops.
Jailing the Dromore man at Craigavon Crown Court, sitting in Belfast and with several of the victims watching proceedings by video link, Judge Patrick Lynch QC said it was clear that Heaney “was using women, many of whom were extremely vulnerable whether through young age, mental health difficulties, drug misuse or general deprivation.”
“They’re often unfortunate members of our society that the defendant in essence preyed upon for the purpose of his own sexual gratification and for the purpose of making money,” said the judge, revealing that when one of the victims fell pregnant, Heaney not only kept her working as a prostitute but also used her pregnancy as a “selling point” for customers.
As long ago as last November former taxi and bus driver Heaney, with an address at Maypole Park in Dromore but currently residing at HMP Maghaberry, entered guilty pleas to ten counts of controlling the prostitution of ten women “in expectation of gain for yourself,” ten counts of human trafficking females in that he “arranged or facilitated the travel” of ten women “with a view to them being exploited” and seven charges of voyeurism by “recording another person doing a private act for the purpose of sexual gratification and knowing they did not consent to being recorded.”
Heaney also admitted single counts of inciting a female to become a prostitute and acquiring criminal property “namely cash and money transfers” with all of the offences committed over more than eight years between June 1, 2011 and September 30, 2019.
When the case was opened by prosecuting QC, David McDowell, a few weeks ago, he said it was “apparent that a number of common features exist between the stories of the women,” describing how the women under Heaney’s control had to have unprotected sex with him and multiple customers, often more than one a night and that unbeknownst to them, Heaney would record them having sex.
Indeed it was when those videos were uncovered when Heaney was arrested in September 2019 that many of the victims were identified by detectives.
“While some were willing prostitutes, a number of the women had wished to engage only in dancing and stripping but were turned eventually to prostitution,” said the senior barrister, explaining how “many of them were young, some just 18 and most if not all, were from difficult circumstances, often living in temporary accommodation and some of them had drug habits.”
The court heard how Heaney was in charge of advertising, using photographs he had taken himself and many times, he held the phone attributable to each woman, taking the calls, arranging the appointments, “liaising with customers and taking them into his trust.”
Frequently making the women use multiple names and profiles to increase business and profit, “he drove them to appointments with customers on both sides of the border.”
“He would also take them to his house in Dromore to have sex with customers and some, he would take to a ‘sex cinema’ in Dublin where they would have sex with more than one man,” revealed Mr McDowell adding that in many occasions, “there were multiple clients on one night.”
In addition to meeting clients, Heaney suggested the women “do Webcam work – performing sexual acts on a webcam and sometimes, one woman would be required to work with another.”
It was the obese, roly poly pimp who set the rates and his cut was anywhere between 20-50% and the court heard that when he was arrested, his bank account and the £150,000 in it was frozen.
The voyeurism charges arose because Heaney would sometimes film the sex with the customer “without the woman’s consent….indeed, some of the women were identified by their presence on video recordings found in the search of his home.”
As well as having sex with multiple customers, including unprotected sex at the behest of Heaney, “it is apparent that the women were required to have sex with him (for which he would often pay) and to satisfy his particular perversions” including:
– Asking them to urinate on him and on his face;
– Shaving his testicles and;
– Performing sex acts on them after they had engaged in unprotected sex with customers.
When one of the women stopped working for him, Mr McDowell said she was paid a visit by three men who shoved their way into her house “and told her not to use any of his contacts”.
Arrested in September 2019, Heaney did his best to play down his role, claiming that he would drive “a couple of girls” and they would “throw him a couple of pound” for the fuel and wear and tear” but given his pleas, Mr McDowell said “the enterprise was on a significant scale with significant financial gain.”
During his half hour sentencing remarks today, Judge Lynch said while the dozen victims had “suffered the degradations of the accused,” each with their own story, he focused on three of the women.
The first began working for Heaney as a stripper when she was 19 and he “regularly had sexual liaisons with her” including going “dogging” with her and when she progressed into prostitution “at the instigation of the defendant,” she had worked both in the north and in Dublin and Dundalk
Another woman was looking for work as a dancer but Heaney told her he only had a vacancy for a cleaner “but she would have to clean naked” while the third had had sex with many men but couldn’t remember a lot of it because she was “off her head with heroin.”
Turning to victim impact statements, Judge Lynch said one woman now reported that “looking back, I know that he groomed me and encouraged me to do things that were never in my radar and had left me with feelings of shame and embarrassment.”
The reports and facts “give an indication of the extent of the deprivations and degradations” the women had to suffer through, said the judge, adding that amongst the numerous aggravating features were the “sustained period” of Heaney’s operation, the multiple victims, the high degree of planning to the extent that “in essence it was a way of life for this accused” and the significant financial gain.
While the prosecution and probation board had sought to argue that Heaney is a dangerous offender and posed a significant risk of causing serious harm, Judge Lynch said that having considered the reports, it was his view that the seven year STPO would be sufficient to protect vulnerable women from being exploited by Heaney.
He warned Heaney, sitting in the dock, that a breach of any of the dozen prohibitions “will be a criminal offence of itself” for which he would be liable to be sent back to prison.
Meanwhile, Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit have welcomed the sentence handed down to Heaney.
Detective Inspector Rachel Miskelly said: “Today’s outcome follows an eight-month investigation, one of the largest ever carried out by our Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit.
“This was a proactive investigation, in which we worked closely with specialist prosecutors in the Public Prosecution Service.
“Initial information gathered indicated that Heaney was involved in transporting vulnerable, young, local women throughout Northern Ireland and to the Republic of Ireland to provide sexual services for payment.
“Heaney was initially arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, controlling prostitution and money laundering; and was further arrested on suspicion of voyeurism, brothel-keeping and paying for sexual services.
“Last November, he pleaded guilty to 28 charges relating to 12 female victims.”
Detective Inspector Miskelly continued: “The investigation, from start to finish, has unearthed a series of despicable offences – all with the common aim of exploiting vulnerable young women for selfish financial gain. The women have been controlled, used and treated appallingly.
“I’m keen to, first of all, acknowledge the inspirational courage demonstrated by those victims who came forward to assist our investigation.
“I am also taking this opportunity to reach out to anyone who is being abused, or has been abused, in this way.
“If you have been exploited, please speak to us. I can assure you that you’ll be treated with respect and sensitivity – at every step of the way.
“You can find more information on the Human Trafficking page of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s website, this includes signs to look out for. Please contact us with any information or suspicions. One simple call could end the misery of a victim living right next door. If it’s an emergency call 999; 101 in a non-emergency; or call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 012 1700.”
Officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit work closely with a range of partners to tackle this heinous crime. They include the Department of Justice, An Garda Síochána, National Crime Agency, Public Prosecution Service, and other agencies represented on the Organised Crime Task Force. Many local charities also play a vital role in assisting and supporting victims to rebuild their lives.