PROSTITUTION ACCUSED: Ms Chin Yi Lai, 20, and Robert Paul Dawson, 36, outside Ipswich Courthouse where they appeared on prostitution offences.
PROSTITUTION ACCUSED: Ms Chin Yi Lai, 20, and Robert Paul Dawson, 36, outside Ipswich Courthouse where they appeared on prostitution offences. Ross Irby

Comings and goings led to crackdown on backyard hookers

IT WAS a case of 'not in my backyard you don't', when a watchful neighbour saw the frequent comings and goings of men at an Ipswich house.

Then when a mature lad mistakenly knocked on his door inquiring about the sexual services of women at the brothel he went to police.

A woman also complained about being offered a job as a receptionist at the brothel.

Ipswich police later raided the East Ipswich house and laid charges for illegal prostitution, including a charge of offering sex without the use of condoms.

More than 30 mobile phones and thousands of dollars in cash were seized.

When the manager of the backyard operation and one of the women appeared to face charges, Ipswich Magistrates Court heard two of the working girls had since fled back overseas.

Businessman Robert Paul Dawson, 36, and Ms Chin Yi Lai, 20, a student, pleaded guilty to knowingly carry on the business of providing unlawful prostitution in November 2017; and obtaining prostitution involving sexual intercourse or oral sex without using a prophylactic.

Dawson also pleaded guilty to possession of restricted weapon - a billy club.

Prosecutor Bronson Ballard said police sought fines as neither Dawson, a New Zealand national, or Ms Lai, a Malaysian citizen, had a criminal history.

Defence barrister Bill Brown sought the return of a computer, saying it held the university course studies of Lai, and a personal mobile phone of Dawson's as it held family photos.

"They have been good citizens when in Australia. Unfortunately just fallen into one error," Mr Brown said.

He sought convictions not to be recorded against them as they were co-operative with police, and as citizens of other countries this could come back "to trouble them".

Magistrate Virginia Sturgess said that would just be too bad.

She queried if their relationship was business or personal. Mr Brown said Dawson and Lai were a couple.

"They fell into this through her contacts with the two offenders who fled Australia afterward," Mr Brown said.

Taking into account that Dawson has lived in Australia for eight years, Ms Sturgess said it was not as though he had just stepped off a plane, and he would have known prostitution in Queensland was regulated and required a licence.

Both offences carry a three year maximum jail sentence.

Ms Sturgess said licensing of prostitution was done for the health and safety of workers and clients, and to prevent the involvement of organised crime.

She said Dawson indicated to police he had run other prostitution rings.

"Two prostitutes involved left the country following the raid by police," she said. "You are a mature man who has lived here eight years. You should be aware it was unlawful."

Ms Sturgess said they did not deserve to be treated more leniently because they might face deportation.

Dawson was fined $1500 and Lai $1200.

Convictions were not recorded.

Instead of returning the phone and laptop, Ms Sturgess ordered that the personal material be downloaded for them.