Three women who pleaded guilty this week to running a brothel, avoided jail and even got a lift home from the Gardai, after a judge felt that having to go onto a sex offenders register on foot of conviction was too severe a consequence for the crime before him.
Appearing in Mullingar District Court on Friday (October 8 ) were three Romanian nationals - Andrea Peonaru (22 ), Anna Leon (24 ), and Ionut Robert (26 ), all with an address at Market Court, Market Yard, Sligo - all charged under Section 11 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences ) Act 1993.
The three were very nervous and held hands throughout the proceedings. Without the aid of a translator, they indicated they would like to have all matters resolved before the court that day, and Judge Patrick Clyne gave them some time with a number of legal aid representatives in the court, and postponed their case for an hour to facilitate this.
Whilst waiting for the three women to instruct their solicitors, the judge asked Inspector Fergus Treanor whether a conviction on this indictable charge would result in the defendants being put on a sex offenders register. When told it would, he chose to accept jurisdiction and not send the three defendants to the Circuit Court for trial by judge and jury, as he was entitled to do, but chose to deal with it summorarily in his court.
Garda Robert Molloy told the court that, on the strength of information received, they had put a block of apartments in Market Street, Sligo under surveillance between October 4 and 7, and “a plain clothes colleague was offered sex for €200”.
“On October 7, three people left the apartment for another apartment in the block, and warrants were received for a search,” said Garda Molloy. In the apartment the gardai found the three defendants, a selection of named industry paraphenalia, and €1,255 in cash. All three were then arrested and charged with keeping a brothel. At no stage during the case was any evidence given of any participation or oversight in the business by a third party.
Defending solicitor, Mr John Quinn explained how all three women “were entirely co-operative” but in financial difficulties.
“This was basically an operation to try and earn some money for themselves, and this opportunity is gone,” he said.
“They noticed this line of business was not well covered in Sligo, and they saw an opening,” said their second solicitor, Mr Louis Kiernan.
“Mr Quinn, don’t be suggesting such things about the good people of Sligo,” chided Judge Clyne.
“I wouldn’t make any such inference, judge,” backtracked Mr Kiernan.
“There are ways of earning a living in Sligo. This is not one of them,” said the judge, before ordering they pay €900 from the confiscated €1,255 to the North West Hospice “as a collective donation”, and the balance to be returned to the three defendants.
“I don’t want to leave them without money to buy grub this evening,” said the judge. He then ordered they sign a peace bond for two years.
“Do not engage in sexual services or use any premises in the State for personal sexual services,” he warned.
Before the three women left the court, he asked the accompanying gardai to make sure they got back to Sligo and not have them left on the streets of Mullingar.