A Canberra man who raped and robbed a sex worker with two other men will spend up to three years and eight months in jail, after prosecutors in the ACT Supreme Court described their victims as being in “the most vulnerable of occupations”.
Rashid Abuuh, 24, pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault, sexual intercourse without consent, attempted sexual intercourse without consent and aggravated robbery.
Prosecutors alleged he and two other men, 32-year-old Mohammad Alibassi and 22-year-old Khalid Alibassi, booked the sex worker before forcing her into a bedroom and raping her.
Both the Alibassi brothers pleaded guilty to a number of charges, while Abuuh was found guilty by a jury earlier this year.
The two brothers were also convicted of raping another sex worker in the same apartment, but in sentencing Abuuh, Justice Michael Elkaim found the offences “occurred as part of a single criminal enterprise”.
During a sentencing hearing, Abuuh’s lawyer argued that he should be viewed as playing the smallest role of the three men in the attacks.
He argued that while Khalid Alibassi led the attacks, Abuuh’s role was more limited and that he was “more of a hanger-on than Mohammed”.
Justice Elkaim partially accepted that argument.
Victims ‘entitled to safety’
The defence argued an intensive corrections order should be considered, but Justice Elkaim said given the seriousness of the offences, full-time incarceration was “an absolute necessity”.
“The offence of sexual intercourse without consent is always serious,” he said.
“The fact that these offences were committed against sex workers does not lessen their severity.
“The victims were entitled to carry on in their profession in safety, and free from fear of molestation, rape and robbery by men masquerading as customers.”
The defence argued Abuuh’s background as a Somali refugee whose father died when he was six or seven should be considered in sentencing.
The court heard Abuuh recently became an Australian citizen.
Abuuh will be eligible for release after serving two years and two months of his sentence.
Co-accused motivated by ‘free sex and money’
Prosecutors argued a full-time sentence was the only option, noting that in pleading not guilty Abuuh had shown no remorse for his actions.
During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors repeated the assessment of Justice David Mossop, who sentenced the Alibassi brothers, that the offences could be considered “thoroughly disgraceful”.
Justice Elkaim agreed with that assessment.
“I adopt [Justice Mossop’s] description of the conduct, including his statement that the offences were ‘disgraceful’,” he said.
They noted that the offences were not spontaneous and required some degree of planning, and that co-accused Khalid Alibassi had spoken of their motivation to get “free sex and money”.
Prosecutor Sarah Gul also mentioned the challenging circumstances of the victims, working in the “most vulnerable of occupations” and speaking very little English.
“For the victims this is a gross violation of their workplace, their bodies and their safety.”
They argued that the robbery offence, for stealing a mobile phone from a victim trying to send text messages calling for help, should not be dismissed as less serious.
Abuuh chose not to give evidence during the hearing.