The Oldest Profession

Man avoids jail for running brothel in North Lane, Canterbury

Published in The Kent Messenger
18th April 2017

The only suspicion neighbours had was that the nondescript terraced house near Canterbury city centre appeared to have many visitors. Some thought it was used for student accommodation but in reality it was a brothel – with a regular flow of clients aged up to 70.

As the customers of the Beano cafe tucked into their egg and chips, little did they know that sex was being peddled right next door. It was being run by a Chinese man smuggled into the UK who had told his partner he was running a karaoke bar in the city.

His lies were uncovered when police raided the house at 13 North Lane after a complaint from one of the sex workers who were being “savagely exploited”. As officers arrived to search the premises they saw wipes and condoms being thrown out of the windows, Canterbury Crown Court heard.

Teng Gao, who lived there, tried to tell police he thought it was just a massage parlour and had no idea any sex was going on. The Chinese national – who was smuggled into Britain some years ago – later revealed that he had told his partner he was working at a karaoke bar.

But now the 38-year-old, who has since moved to Middlesbrough, admitted assisting in the management of a brothel for seven months on the day he was expected to stand trial. A probation report claimed he was under a lot of financial pressure because of gambling and family debts “and he chose to turn a blind eye” to what was going on.

Judge Rupert Lowe heard that Gao had been “dishonest by telling his partner he was going to Canterbury to run a karaoke business and she was unaware until his arrest”.

The father-of-two, who now works as a chef, said his deceit had caused “a lot of upset” with his partner and the couple had nearly parted. The court heard that Gao had claimed he was recruited by a woman calling herself Youyou.

He was given a 12-month prison term suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work for the community and pay £1,000 costs.

Judge Lowe told him: “I do not accept for a moment that you did not know what sort of establishment you were running. It does you no credit for you to lie to a probation officer about that. You knew perfectly well what you were doing but I am prepared to accept that the woman Youyou told you it was a legal brothel.”

Police were told about the brothel when one of the women working there believed she had been drugged and begged one of her clients to tell the police.

Judge Lowe added: “The danger of brothels of this kind is that the ladies who work there are often trafficked and moved from one establishment to the next. Week by week, often speaking little or no English and making little money, they work in humiliating circumstances and often under heavy debt and sometimes drugged.”

He told Gao – who claimed to have been paid £400 a week plus £2 per customer – he had come close to an immediate jail sentence because “you must have known that women in the establishment were being savagely exploited”.