Later in 2009, Mr Kam Tin Ho (as above), was convicted on one further count of intentionally exercising over a slave a power attaching to the right of ownership, namely the power to use contrary to s 270.3(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. Ms Sarisa Leech, who was herself previously a victim of debt bondage, was also convicted of intentionally possessing a slave (s270.3(1) of Criminal Code) and intentionally using a slave (s s 270.3(1)(a) of Criminal Code).

At trial it was alleged that Ms Leech met KW, a Thai sex worker from the age of 14, in 2003 in Bangkok. Following this meeting, KW travelled to Australia on a short-stay visa on the basis of attending a team building seminar when in actual fact it was intended that she would work in the sex industry. KW’s ticket, visa and accommodation in Australia were paid by other people on her behalf and she was told that this constituted a debt which she would have to pay off by providing sexual services to 650 clients in licensed brothels.

Upon arrival in Australia, KW was taken to the apartment where she was to live along with another girl known as Lisa. She was not given a key and from time to time a man known as Ben would bring her food. She did not commence working for a period of three months and during this time she was visited by Ms Leech and Mr Ho. KW’s passport was taken from her and she was told to memorise a false story in order to obtain a protection visa to stay in Australia. Once she commenced working, KW said it took her three to four months to pay off her debt. She worked daily from 11am-2am and would see up to 16 clients in that time. Whilst at work, the premise was locked and KW was not allowed to leave. She was forced to work even when she was ill and was made to continue working after her debt had been paid because there were no girls.

In observing the sentencing principle of totality, the court sentenced Mr Ho to six years imprisonment, with six months to be served cumulatively upon the sentences imposed by Justice Philip Cummins (above). The total effective sentence for all convictions was therefore fourteen years and six months imprisonment. The non-parole period set by Justice Cummins, being eleven years, was affirmed. Ms Leech was sentenced to six years imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of three years and six months.

Mr Ho and Ms Leech lodged appeals against both their convictions and sentences. Similar to the above, the appeals in relation to convictions were rejected however the appeals in relation to sentence were accepted. Ms Leech failed on her appeal in relation to her sentence for possessing a slave however the Court of Appeal reduced her sentence for using a slave by six months. She was re-sentenced to a total of five years and six months imprisonment with a three year non-parole period.

Following the decision to reduce the sentence against Ms Leech, the court considered it appropriate to address the question of parity between the sentences of Ms Leech and Mr Ho and as a result reduced the sentence of Mr Ho to four years and six months imprisonment and confirmed that the non-parole period as set by the trial judge would need to be redetermined.

Case Citation

Ho v The Queen; Leech v The Queen [2011] VSCA 344

DPP (Cth) v Ho & Leech [2009] VSC 495

DPP (Cth) v Ho & Anor [2009] VSC 437

See also: Kam Tin Ho & Ho Kam Ho (2009).