Slavery & Servitude Offences & Defences in Australia

Poppy Morandin and Jimmy Singh.

 

Former Australian soldier and self-proclaimed “patriarchal overlord”, James Davis, has faced court over numerous slavery offences.

The court heard Mr Davis was accused of ‘possessing a slave’ and ‘causing a person live in servitude’ at his Maroubra property, among other offences, in Sydney’s east between 2013 and 2015.

Among the crowd at Armidale Local Court, five women who live with him came to support Davis, as he appeared via video link.

The 40-year-old has previously been the focus of his own video-series, in which he posted a five-part series about his life.

It focused on his ‘BDSM lifestyle’ and being in a relationship with multiple women.

Australian Federal Police raided the remote property where he lives with his partners, seizing several items as part of an ongoing investigation.

“[People] think I must be some kind of abusive oppressor, a misogynist, manipulator, or even a monster,” he said in a documentary.

“But the truth is, I’m just a guy who loves both freedom and commitment, and who was lucky enough to find some incredible women to love, and who love me back.” he continued.

In a glimpse into life on the remote property owned by Davis, a video posted online shows the women he lives with bowing down as he walks into a room.

“Good morning Master, your owned property Slave 808497061 has missed you, and is here presented ready and waiting to serve you,” one woman said to him as he sits back on a couch.

The Australian Federal Police arrested Davis after Four Corners and ABC Investigations provided information gathered during a five-month-long investigation.

This compelling information included hundreds of photographs, videos, and documents, along with information from more than two dozen women.

It is alleged that Davis assigned women ‘slave numbers’, made them wear silver colours, and participate in sex-work.

This includes a girl who Davis allegedly started a relationship with when she was only 17.

Whilst the women have previously claimed to have engaged with Davis of their own free will, former partners continue to come forward with a range of stories.

This includes Felicity Bourke, who claims Davis physically abused her and coercively controlled her, including by being chained to areas of the residence.

Bourke states that Davis presented her with a contract to sign which pledged ‘submission and servitude’ to him.

Four Corners also revealed that Davis had a group of like-minded men who he was training to subjugate women, utilising social media to recruit more female followers.

Superintendent Hudson sought to issue a plea to the broader community, stating: “Look a little deeper, look in your communities, your neighbourhoods, your backyards, for the signs of human trafficking, and slavery. It is very much an unseen crime, or hidden in plain sight.”

Slavery & Servitude Offences & Defences in Australia

Slavery involves exercising rights of ownership over another person, including where such a condition results from a debt or contract made by the person, as per section 270.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

Offences associated with slavery include servitude, forced labour, deceptive recruiting and forced marriage.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions states that: “the majority of victims identified by Australian authorities and matters we have prosecuted have involved women working in the sex industry.”

Pursuant to section 270.3 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth), a person commits an offence if they, whether within or outside Australia, intentionally:

  • reduces a person to slavery,
  • possesses a slave or exercises over a slave any of the other powers attaching to the right of ownership,
  • engages in slave trading,
  • enters into any commercial transaction involving a slave,
  • exercises control or direction over or provides finance for any act of slave trading or any commercial transaction involving a slave.

This offence is punishable with a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.

The Offence of Servitude

The act defines ‘servitude’ as the condition of a victim who provides labour or services, and if due to the use of coercion, threat or deception, a reasonable person in the position of the victim would not consider themselves to be free to cease providing the labour or services or to leave the place or area where they provide the labour or services.

It also applies where the victim is significantly deprived of personal freedom in respect of aspects of their life other than the provision of the labour or services.

A victim may be in a condition of servitude whether or not escape from the condition is practically possible and whether or not they have attempted to escape from the condition.

A person who engages in conduct that causes another person to enter into or remain in servitude, faces a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment, pursuant to section 270.5.

Causing a person to enter into or remain in servitude in circumstances of aggravation carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.

Aggravating circumstances include situations in which the victim is 18, is subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, or is subject to conduct that gives rise to a danger of death or serious harm to themselves or another person; and the offender is reckless as to that danger.

Defences to these Charges include, the alleged offender is under the age of 10, or over 10 but under 14 if the prosecution cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that the child knew his/her conduct as wrong; mental impairment in the sense he/she didn’t know of the nature and quality of his/her conduct or if he/she did, he/she didn’t know that it was wrong because he/she couldn’t reason with a moderate degree of sense and composure about whether the conduct as perceived by reasonable people, was wrong, or he/she wasn’t able to control the conduct; or duress.

Questions? Call and speak to a specialist criminal lawyer Sydney based today.

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