Facts: This was an appeal from Mullingar Circuit Court. The respondents were convicted of trafficking four victims in Ireland, organising prostitution and money laundering. Ms. Edosa received an effective sentence of five years and eight months imprisonment, while Ms. Enoghaghase received one of five years and one month. The victims had been targeted in Nigeria, forced to undergo Voodoo rituals and take Juju oaths, and brought to Ireland under false promises of employment. They were threatened and forced to work as sex workers traveling between towns in Ireland. The work was alleged to have been organised by Ms. Edosa and Ms. Enoghaghase, who received all monies from the victims.
Ms. Edosa brought an appeal against conviction on the ground that the trial judge erred in fact and law by refusing to direct verdicts of not guilty where a complainant admitted to having destroyed evidence and where the Gardai failed to carry out further investigations into phone records.
In turn, the DPP brought applications for undue leniency reviews on the grounds that the trial judge did not have due regard to the nature and gravity of the offences and did not impose a proportionate sentence.
First, as regards the conviction appeal brought by Ms. Edosa, the Court of Appeal found the approach of the Circuit Court to be correct and the contention that evidence deleted from a mobile phone would have proved exculpatory was speculation.
Second, as regards the undue leniency reviews, the Court of Appeal recalled that this was the first human trafficking case before the Irish courts. As such, the sentencing judge had no comparators to follow. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the trial judge’s calibration of the gravity of the respondents’ offending.
The DPP submitted that the harm element involved in human trafficking can be multi-dimensional, and that accordingly, sentences of up to 20 years imprisonment were appropriate. The Court found the checklist provided by the DPP of identifying factors that would put a trafficking offence into the highest category of sentencing ranges to be helpful. It also agreed that it should not be expected that all factors are present in a case, but even a few would justify placing it in the highest sentencing range. It agreed that the maximum headline sentences should be high and should not be less than ten years.
The Court of Appeal held that the sentences imposed by the trial judge were unduly lenient and quashed the sentences. It recognised that this was a case where various offences were charged, including trafficking, organising prostitution offences, and money laundering, and all were all inextricably linked. It identified a headline or pre-mitigation sentence of ten years imprisonment, and then applied mitigating factors to result in sentences on the trafficking offences of seven and half years in the case of Ms. Edosa and seven years and one month imprisonment in the case of Ms. Enoghaghase.. It imposed similar sentences in respect of the organising prostitution offences, to run concurrently with the trafficking sentences. The money laundering sentences were unaltered.