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NZ: Appeal dismissed over underage prostitute (Taranaki)

Publish Date: 14 Oct 2011
Source: Otago Daily Times

Brothel owner Michael Hastie outside the New Plymouth District Court in Dec 2008. Photo: Cameron Burnell/Taranaki Daily News

A New Plymouth man who lured a 15-year-old girl to live in his brothel and made her work as an underage prostitute has had appeals against his conviction and sentence dismissed.

Michael Hastie, 61, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison after a jury last August reached an 11-to-one majority verdict on six charges relating to sex with a minor and employing an underage girl as a prostitute.

The jury unanimously found him not guilty on two charges of cannabis supply.

Hastie pretended to be a 22-year-old surfer and used phone calls and text messages to lure the young girl from her grandparents' home in Wellington to his two-bedroom house in New Plymouth, where other young women were working as prostitutes.

The girl had no money and stayed with Hastie despite discovering he was an "old man''.

She was reported missing by her grandparents but Hastie posed as a caring father figure to the authorities and applied for guardianship through the Family Court.

Hastie gave the girl alcohol and cannabis and the pair had sex on two or three occasions.

After several months she began working as a prostitute, with Hastie making the bookings and receiving a share of her earnings.

He also tried to get the girl's 16-year-old friend to work as a prostitute, but she lost her nerve and the 15-year-old took her place.

In her victim impact statement, the complainant said Hastie simply wanted to make money from her and she had no choice but to work for him because she "owed him''.

Since leaving the brothel she has suffered from depression and substance abuse.

Hastie appealed both his sentence and conviction in the Court of Appeal.

Lawyer Susan Hughes QC argued the trial judge should have directed jurors to deliberate further before telling them they could reach a majority verdict.

She also argued Hastie's sentence was excessive because there was no abuse of trust, given the girl travelled to New Plymouth of her own will and did not leave.

Mrs Hughes said the sentence did not adequately take into account Hastie's health issues, which included heart and artery problems, and it was effectively a life sentence.

The Court of Appeal found it was at the trial judge's discretion whether jurors should be directed to deliberate further or reach a majority verdict.

It agreed with the Crown that Hastie was only able to lure the girl because she was young and naive.

The sentencing judge had given Hastie a 12-month discount for ill health and a further discount was not justified, the court found.

Copyright © Allied Press Limited 2007

Stop Demand makes the following comments - to raise awareness and encourage readers towards critical analysis.

"...made her work as an underage prostitute", "...where other young women were working as prostitutes", "... making the bookings and receiving a share of her earnings..."

Typical of many media articles on under-aged prostitution, the author makes no enquiry as to the numerous local Taranaki men who have paid to have sex with these girls.  These men are (under the law) criminals whose crimes attract up to 7 years imprisonment. 

Why are so many New Zealand men who pay to have sex with children getting off "scot-free", by the police, the Courts and the media?