Major update in Aussie sex ring case

Multiple charges against a woman accused of taking part in an alleged sex slave ring where women were drugged and forced into sexual servitude have been dropped by prosecutors.

Hannah Christina Stead was one of several people charged with offences related to an alleged prostitution business run out of two Brisbane properties.

Police alleged multiple women were forced into “sexual servitude”, plied with stupefying drugs and subjected to controlled living, financial and working conditions.

The alleged ringleader, Matthew James Markcrow, is facing a raft of serious charges, including conducting a business involving servitude of another, acts intended to maim or disfigure and knowingly carry on the business of providing unlawful prostitution.

The alleged ring was busted when police executed search warrants on two properties in Mount Gravatt East and South Brisbane on February 4, 2021.

Drugs and evidence to support sexual servitude and organised prostitution offences were allegedly discovered by officers.

Stead, 26, was charged days after the raids following further police investigations.

But on Friday prosecutors announced they would not offer any evidence on several of the charges she was facing.

Stead’s charges of providing unlawful prostitution, supplying a dangerous drug, conducting a business involving servitude and attempting to conduct a business involving servitude were dismissed at Brisbane Magistrates Court.

She instead pleaded guilty to a charge of knowingly participate in the provision of prostitution, as well as a number of summary offences.

The court was told Mr Markcrow was remanded in custody for several months over 2019 on unrelated offences.

Prior to that, he was allegedly conducting a business involving prostitution, a police prosecutor said.

During this time he “maintained” contact with Stead while he was in custody, calling her multiple times regarding the business and requesting she deposit proceeds from the prostitution into his bank account, the court heard.

“During that five-month period the defendant (Stead) facilitated the provision of prostitution by no more than two other sex workers, to members of the public under Markcrow’s direction,” the prosecutor said.

The court was told Stead effectively acted in an “administrative” capacity.

Her other summary offences included pleas to possessing small amounts of drugs like methylamphetamine and diazepam, driving while under the influence of drugs and breaching her bail conditions by failing to report to police.

She was also found to be in possession of an extendable baton and a spring-loaded knife when police searched her property in June.

In sentencing Stead, Magistrate Belinda Merrin took into account the young woman’s difficult upbringing and drug use which was apparent in her offending.

For the charge of knowingly participate in the provision of prostitution, Stead was released on a $600 recognisance and ordered to be of good behaviour for four months.

No conviction was recorded.

Magistrate Merrin also placed Stead on a probation order for 18 months.

She was not further punished on her other offences and convictions were not recorded.

Mr Markcrow’s matters remain before the courts and his case will be mentioned in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday.

Originally published as Charges against woman allegedly involved in sexual slavery ring in Brisbane dropped

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