PPS statement on the sentencing of Martin Heaney

Publication date:

Martin Heaney (59) was sentenced to five years in prison today, divided equally between prison and licence, at Craigavon Crown Court (sitting in Belfast), after pleading guilty last November to 28 charges relating to 12 female victims.

The charges included controlling prostitution for gain, voyeurism, human trafficking, acquiring criminal property, and causing or inciting prostitution for gain.

A Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order (STPO) was also issued and will be in place for seven years.

Senior Public Prosecutor Mairead Lavery from the PPS Serious Crime Unit, who directed the prosecution, said: “Martin Heaney trafficked and exploited a number of young women whom he knew to be vulnerable due to issues including homelessness, addiction and isolation. He did this for his own financial gain, advertising them online for unprotected, high risk sexual activity and trafficking them within Northern Ireland and to the Republic of Ireland.

“Human trafficking specialist prosecutors in the PPS Serious Crime Unit worked closely with officers from the PSNI Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit from an early stage in this investigation before engaging with the victims. This enabled us to build a strong case against Heaney for a range of human trafficking, sexual and prostitution related offences. The strength of the evidence, which included victims’ accounts, digital material, and bank and phone records, provided the victims with the confidence to engage with the criminal justice system.

“Human trafficking often occurs across international borders but this case, in which the victims were all originally from Northern Ireland, highlights that it does not always involve perpetrators or victims who have come here from another country. Traffickers know no borders and will target people who are vulnerable for a range of reasons.

“In this case, five other individuals received cautions for buying sexual services, which is illegal in Northern Ireland. For most people, selling sexual services is not truly a free choice. Even when they escape their situation, many are left traumatised and with feelings of guilt and shame. Anyone paying for sexual services should know that they are contributing to the exploitation of another human being and, in many cases, the profits of human traffickers. 

“The PPS is committed to working with the PSNI and our other partner agencies to provide victims and witnesses of human trafficking and related types of exploitation, which may include sexual exploitation, forced labour and slavery and servitude, with protection and support, enabling them to support a prosecution.

“Our specially trained human trafficking prosecutors understand how daunting it can be for victims of these type of offences to report their experiences to police, and we commend their bravery. I want to appeal to people who think they may be victims to please come forward and seek help from police.”

All cases involving allegations of human trafficking are dealt with in accordance with the PPS Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking