SLAVE OR CONTRACTOR? This woman survived the sex slave industry; now a Suffolk Park lawyer wants to challenge the legal definition.
SLAVE OR CONTRACTOR? This woman survived the sex slave industry; now a Suffolk Park lawyer wants to challenge the legal definition. Northern Star

Lawyer helps sex slaves

FROM his home office at Suffolk Park, solicitor Bruce Peters is working on a case that could help to change the definition of slavery.

Mr Peters is handling the sentencing and appeal of Sydney brothel owner Trevor McIvor, found guilty of sex slavery.

The case is the first successful prosecution of a sex slave trader in NSW under federal anti-trafficking laws introduced in 1999.

McIvor and his Thai wife Kanokporn Tanuchit ran a brothel in Sydney which recruited Thai women.

McIvor was found guilty in 2007 of 10 counts of slavery committed the previous year. He is due to be sentenced at the Downing Centre in Sydney on July 14 and 15.

Mr Peters said McIvor paid for the Thai women to come to Australia on tourist visas to work at his brothel.

The women were required to work their debt off before leaving the brothel or staying on to make money for themselves.

He said McIvor was of the view he was employing Thai prostitutes in a joint venture arrangement.

He likened his client's role in employing women to the contractual agreements of football players.

"Many jobs have controlled circumstances," he said.

McIvor's legal appeal will hinge on a similar case currently before the High Court of Australia.

The 'Wei Tang' case has been dubbed 'the most important test of the criminal laws against slavery to come before the courts in Australia'. A decision in that case is due to be handed down in August.

Mr Peters said the case of McIvor was the highest profile case he had worked on since becoming a solicitor in 2000.

"It is very exciting to be involved in the legal process at this level," he said. "No matter your views on prostitution, whether it is moral or immoral, well, that is not part of it; morals are not part of the law."

Mr Peters scored the McIvor case after another of his clients met McIvor in jail. The man praised Mr Peters' work and recommended McIvor call him.

"Jail is a good place for referrals," Mr Peters said.

"I have some clients in jail but that doesn't mean I have failed them as a lawyer. Because of the way I work with them and involve them in the process, they still recommend me."

Mr Peters said the argument before the High Court in the Wei Tang case was for the court to accept a narrower definition of slavery.

"The term slavery is not apt to encompass voluntary contractual arrangements without force or coercion, such as in the Wei Tang and McIvor cases.

If, however, the High Court supports the broader view of slavery then we may expect that 'slavery' well may become synonymous with exploitative working conditions," he said.

Mr Peters is working on McIvor's sentencing and appeal with Michael Byrne QC, former deputy prosecutor for the state of Queensland.

Thanks to the internet, he said legal argument could be formulated equally well in a house in Suffolk Park as the offices of a top legal firm with access to a huge library of law books and case histories.


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