Paul Ervine, from Ballymacash Park in Lisburn, pleaded guilty to a total of seven charges including managing three brothels, controlling one prostitute, having over £3,000 in criminal property, and “inciting” a woman to become a prostitute.
Unfortunately for the 62-year-old former tax adviser, the woman he was trying to recruit, was a reporter (Patricia Devlin) who secretly recorded him boasting of the thousands of pounds to be made as a call girl.
The report by the former Sunday Life journalist led to a police investigation into his activities.
Ervine later claimed that he thought he was doing nothing illegal, believing he was acting as an agent for the girls, and very different from those acting as a pimp or operating a brothel.
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In all Ervine was involved in the management “or assisted in the management” of brothels in Belfast’s Kitchener Street, Connsbrook Avenue and University Court on differing dates between January and December 2014.
When initially arrested by police in May 2015, officers also recovered £3,210 in cash, which he accepted was “criminal property”.
Judge Gordon Kerr QC told the shamed former accountant that in determining the appropriate sentence the court had to look at the nature of his offending; in particular, were any young women being trafficked so that they could be exploited.
However, in his case he was told that the woman he “intentionally controlled” was already an established prostitute. Nevertheless, said Judge Kerr, Ervine was operating for “pure profit”, organising clients and running the brothels.
The judge said that with regard to the current sentencing guidelines the appropriate sentence was one of six to 12 months, but that given his guilty pleas, cooperation with police and his limited record, the majority for motoring offences, with nothing of a similar nature, he could suspend any custodial sentence.
Judge Kerr said that there was also nothing to suggest that Ervine, who had a good work record, posed a danger to the community, and was assessed as a low risk of reoffending, and that the proper sentence should be one of six months suspended for two years.
However, the judge added that Ervine accepted that the monies recovered by police were from his criminal activity, and he ordered the disposal of the £3,210, and because he had intended to profit from his wrongdoing, Ervine would be fined £2,000.