This case involves Ms Namthip Netthip, who was born in Thailand but became an Australian citizen in 1994. Ms Netthip, a former sex-worker herself, ran a business through which she organized the placement of 11 Thai women in brothels in Australian cities, including Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, and Perth [R v Netthip  NSWDC 159 at ]. The women were recruited in Thailand by a Thai facilitator who organised their passports, visas, and travel plans. The women agreed to repay debts of $53,000, and were aware they would be working in the sex industry. Seven of the eleven women informed Australian authorities that they had worked in the sex industry before arriving in Australia.
Ms Netthip, who holds an accountancy diploma from Thailand, was responsible for organizing food, work-related medical expenses, mobile phones, and initial accommodation for each of the women upon their arrival in Australia. Under the direction of Ms Netthip, the women were then placed into an Australian brothel that would in turn deduct a fee from the earnings made by each woman. The women were allowed access to the Internet and could contact family. Some were driven to and from work, while others caught public transport. If the women had problems with working conditions then Ms Netthip would attempt to resolve it or move them to a new brothel. From her net earnings, the women were required to pay back their debt of $53,000 to Ms Netthip. It was estimated that it took approximately 6 months for each of the women to pay back this debt. From the $53,000 collected by Ms Netthip for each woman, the agent in Thailand was paid $20,000. It was estimated that, after all expenses (e.g. food, medical, rent, telephone etc), Ms Netthip would receive approximately $10,000–18,000 net profit per woman. It was estimated that the net profit in relation to all 11 women was approximately $60,000 - $70,000, although this was considered to be an underestimate. It was indicated in a pre-sentence report that Ms Netthip was ‘driven by the need to financially support her parents and later her daughter’ (para. 21). As part of the arrangement agreed to by the women, Ms.Netthip would assist them in applying for a protection visa approximately six weeks after arriving in Australia. Ms. Netthip would provide the women with false information for the purpose of substantiating a claim for refugee status. The women were also coached about the way in which they should answer questions asked by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship officers during their immigration assessment.
Ms Netthip was arrested in 2009, and on 30 March 2010 at the Downing Centre Local Court (New South Wales) plead guilty to knowingly conducting a business that involved the sexual servitude of 11 other persons between 30 August 2005 and 1 April 2008 [Criminal Code (Cth) s 270.6(2)]. She also plead guilty to a number of immigration offences in relation to the making of false statements to DIAC immigration officials [Migration Act 1958 (Cth) s 234(1)(b) and (c)]. She was not sentenced at the Downing Centre Local Court. The sentencing decision is the subject of the present case [R v Netthip  NSWDC 159].
Ms Netthip was sentenced on 30 July 2010 at the New South Wales District Court to two years and three months imprisonment for the sexual servitude offences, with a non-parole period of 13 months (para. 35). In relation to the migration offences she received a three-and-a-half year good behaviour bond(para.36). In sentencing Ms Netthip, Murrell SC DCJ held that her early guilty plea to the sexual servitude offences avoided ‘the need for a lengthy and potentially problematic trial’ and as such she was given a 25% discount on the original sentence of three years imprisonment (para. 34).The potential problems that would have arisen at trial are discussed in the ‘commentary and significant features’ section.
New South Wales District Court
Official case reports
Sentencing decision: R v Netthip  NSWDC 159