Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit have welcomed the sentence handed down to Martin Heaney at Laganside Crown Court today, Wednesday 20 July.

Martin Heaney, aged 59, was sentenced to five years imprisonment.  A Sex Trafficking Prevention Order (STPO) was also issued and will be in place for 7 years.

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.