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Melbourne brothel allegedly let teenage ‘dominatrix’ work

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Three people accused of managing a 16-year-old girl allegedly hired as an “assistant dominatrix” at a Melbourne brothel have been ordered to stand trial.

Wenjun Zhu, 33, Ying Yang, 51, and Cheng Li, 33, appeared via video link in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday to face multiple charges including causing a child to take part in sex work, allowing a child to enter a brothel, obtaining for sexual services performed by a child and entering an agreement by which a child is to perform sexual services to another person in return for payment.

The trio allegedly let the teenager, who cannot be identified, work as an “assistant dominatrix” and perform sexual services at the Heidelberg Angels brothel in August 2019.

Lawyers for the trio argued the case against their clients was largely circumstantial and they should not face trial in relation to the allegations.

A lawyer for Mr Zhu from Chadstone argued the teenager claimed to be 27 and engaged in “dominatrix” and “fetish pleasers”, which were not defined as sexual services under the act.

The teenager was already working at the brothel when Mr Zhu began his role and he did not check her ID because he only checked the new workers, defence lawyer Katarina Ljubicic said.

She also told the court the young girl wanted to work at the premises.

“Clearly she wanted to continue to work there. She’s intended people to believe she’s older than she is,” Ms Ljubicic told the court.

The court was also told the girl wore her hair in pigtails, wore a black one-piece and that a woman known as ‘Raven’ had “showed her the ropes” during some sex acts.

This woman was “always” present for full sex acts, according to Ms Ljubicic.

Prosecutors argued dominatrix work was included within the provisions and she had been paid to do those acts.

But “crucially” investigators asked whether she had to fill in any applications and the teen told officers she hadn’t, prosecutor Sandra MacDougall said.

“It was just sort of ‘great you’re willing to work, in you go’,” the teenager told investigators.

The young woman sent a doctored image of her L-permit to an “intermediary” but never to the brothel, Ms MacDougall told the court.

She said it was up to the managers to confirm the age of workers, but none of the accused had apparently made an attempt to ascertain the teenager’s age.

“It’s abundantly clear … that she’s a very youthful person,” the prosecutor said.

“She has provided sexual services within the meaning of the act and that has happened on the watch of the accused in each case,” Ms MacDougall said.

Magistrate Angela Bolger found there was enough evidence including CCTV footage of the alleged victim and witness statements that a jury could convict the trio.

The trio all pleaded not guilty to the offences and will next appear in the County Court of Victoria on June 15.

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