Hornsby Council Loses $100,000 Case Against Alleged Brothel

Tuesday 10 March 2015 @ 9.11 a.m. | Crime

The North Sydney Local Court has ruled against Sydney’s Hornsby local council in a $100,000 legal battle against a massage parlour allegedly operating as a brothel. The court found that the council had failed to satisfy the legal definition of a brothel as it did not prove that there were enough prostitutes working on the premises.


Hornsby Council had hired a private investigator to enter the premises and procured sexual services from the massage parlour. This followed the council’s discovery that the business was a regular paid advertiser on both an Asian sex website and in the adult section of the local newspaper. The investigator reported that he was ‘offered and provided sexual services at the premise.’ 

Legal Principle and Decision

In the landmark case, the local court found that New South Wales had a very specific definition of ‘brothel’ that requires more than one prostitute to be providing services onsite. The court therefore held that evidence of only one prostitute operating on the site meant that the prosecution had failed to meet the standard of proof that the premises was a brothel for the purposes of the Restricted Premises Act 1943. The outcome of the ruling means that in future local councils will have to fund multiple visits to suspected premises to have any chance of a result before the courts.

Political Response

Hornsby Council is now planning to lobby the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to "urgently review" the legal definition of a brothel. Cr Nick Berman confirmed to Fairfax the council spent more than $100,000 "trying to do the right thing - and lost". He went on:

"To have to invest ratepayer's money to pay private investigators to have sex with prostitutes is, in itself, ludicrous. But to now have to send two, three, even four men in is bordering on the unbelievable."

Premier Mike Baird has responded to the decision to request a parliamentary inquiry into the regulation of NSW brothels. He promised that if re-elected, he would make sure authorities have the powers necessary to crack down on illegal brothels and provide appropriate controls for the sex industry to ensure the protection of the whole community. 

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