Derry man pleads guilty to running a brothel

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

Derry Crown Court has heard that a once successful businessman, who was declared a bankrupt, tried to re-establish his once lavish lifestyle by renting a house in the Rosemount area of the city before sub letting it out to Hungarian prostitutes.

As a result of being caught, the defendant Paul McGrory (54), from Ard Fada, in the Ardmore area of Derry, has lost the trust of his wife and is no longer on speaking terms with his children, all of whom are successful professionals and who are distraught at their father’s activities.

McGrory, who has pleaded guilty to running a brothel; guilty to acquiring criminal property of £17,375 and guilty to converting to credit card accounts criminal property of £7,668, is to be sentenced for the offences, which he committed between February and November of 2016, this Friday.

At the plea hearing before Judge Philip Babington today (Tuesday), a barrister for the Public Prosecution Service that during what was initially a police investigation into possible human trafficking, they contacted a number of women who had been sent text messages by the defendant offering them premises at Argyle Street.

The women had advertised their services on the adult website ‘Escort Ireland.’ The text messages on their mobile phones were linked to the defendant’s mobile phone.

During the investigation the police received several complaints from residents in Argyle Street who told them they had seen men regularly going into the brothel.

The men would walk up and down the street before receiving a phone call and they then went into the three bedroom house. The residents told the police they had often seen scantily clad young women at the front door and at the front window of the house.

The prosecutor said McGrory started renting the house in February, 2016, and paid weekly rent of £115. He then sub-let the three bedrooms to the Hungarian woman for £350 per week, per room. The police searched the house and during one of the searches they found bedside cabinets, each stuffed with sexual paraphernalia.

In June, 2016, the officers spoke to two of the women in the house. They said after they had been contacted by McGrory, they moved to Derry from Belfast.

“One of the women told the police they provided sexual services for money. She along with the other women arrived together, met the defendant and paid him £700 for one week’s rent”, the prosecutor said.

“The women found in the house told the police they had advertised on the same adult web site and they accepted offers of accommodation by text messages from the defendant”, he added.

The barrister said the police then decided to investigate the defendant’s financial affairs. They obtained a warrant and an examination of his bank account showed lodgements totalling £17,350 between February and November, 2016, at a time when he was unemployed. The officers also found credit card transactions totalling £7,668.65.

“On November 16, 2016, the police went to the defendant’s then home in Ardmore. He was cautioned and arrested. His wife said ‘what is this about’ and he replied ‘it is about the house I rent in Derry.’

The prosecutor said their was no evidence of human trafficking and the operation was primarily for financial gain. He said the defendant used the money to pay for normal household expenses and did not use them to fund an extravagant lifestyle.

Defence barrister Stephen Mooney said the offences did not involve coercion, recruitment, control nor threats nor did McGrory withhold the passports of the women nor did he take a cut of their earnings from the sex trade they were involved in.

“It appeared to have been a convenient arrangement for both parties. They needed the premises, he needed the money. There is no evidence of the involvement of pimps and these girls knew what they were doing”, he said.

Mr. Mooney said the consequences for McGrory as a result of his offending were disastrous. He had lost his reputation and the trust of his wife and family. He said the first McGrory’s wife knew about her husband’s activities was when the police called at her home.

“The defendant is petrified of going to jail”, he said.

Judge Babington said he would sentence McGrory on Friday and he released him on continuing bail until then.