Voodoo threat nurse has sex trafficking sentence increased

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A London-based nurse who used voodoo threats to traffick vulnerable women from Nigeria to Germany to work as prostitutes has had her 14-year prison sentence increased.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland went to the Court of Appeal on Thursday to challenge the jail term handed out to Josephine Iyamu.

As she tearfully watched the proceedings via videolink from prison, Mr Buckland urged three judges to find that the sentence imposed at Birmingham Crown Court in July was “far too low” and should be increased.

After a hearing in London, Lord Justice Davis, Mrs Justice Simler and Mr Justice Dove ruled that the total sentence imposed on Iyamu, now 52,  was “unduly lenient” and upped it to 18 years.

Announcing the court’s decision,  Lord Justice Davis warned that others found guilty of such “grave” offences could expect severe sentences.

Liberia-born Iyamu, who was made a British citizen in 2009 having been allowed to stay in the UK due to her nursing qualifications, organised the travel of five women from Nigeria to Germany.

Iyamu, formerly of Wilson Grove, Bermondsey, south London, is the first person to be prosecuted in the UK for arranging or facilitating travel for sexual exploitation of victims with no connection to Britain.

She was found guilty at the end of a 10-week trial of five offences under the Modern Slavery Act, and also a count of perverting the course of justice while on remand.

She was originally sentenced to a total of 13 years for the trafficking offences with a further year for perverting the course of justice.

The appeal judges increased the 13 years to 17 years,  leaving the consecutive sentence for perverting the course of justice in place, making a new total sentence of 18 years.

Passing sentence after the trial,  Judge Richard Bond told the married nurse that her “vile” offences had left the women in fear of their lives.

The judge said she would have been fully aware of the dangers involved in a four-week land journey across the Sahara to Tripoli in Libya, followed by a sea voyage on inflatable boats.

The court heard during the trial that Iyamu made her victims swear oaths to hand over money during “juju” ceremonies which saw them ordered to eat chicken hearts, drink blood containing worms, and endure powder being rubbed into cuts caused by a razor.

The prosecution said it was clear that Iyamu, known as “Madam Sandra”, had travelled extensively across Europe and into Africa on a regular basis to meet victims.

Defence counsel John Benson QC said  Iyamu – the daughter of a politician – had “lost everything” as a result of her conviction, including her hope of pursuing a political career in Nigeria.

Lord Justice Davis said the court considered that 13 years did not reflect the “appalling gravity of this offending, relating as it did to five separate victims”.

Referring to the need to deter others, the judge said: “Those who engage in vicious and heartless human trafficking of this particular kind are playing high stakes.”

He said they needed to know that the courts “will show no mercy” when such criminality was exposed.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Buckland said: “Modern slavery exists in all societies, and respects neither borders nor jurisdictions.

“It has no place in a civilised society and the UK Government is committed to tackling this abhorrent crime wherever it originates, working with our partners across the globe.

“The Court of Appeal’s decision today helps to show that crimes relating to human trafficking, such as Iyamu’s, will not be tolerated – regardless of where they are carried out.”

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