Press Release: Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

“Safety First”

Against further criminalisation of sex workers in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007 

Wednesday 17 October 2-4 pm
House of Commons, Committee Room 9
Hosted by John McDonnell MP, long-term supporter of the ECP’s work and recent contender for the leadership of the Labour Party

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007 (CJIB) is part of the government’s repressive response to the unprecedented public outcry of caring and concern at the Ipswich murders.  The CJIB will increase the criminalisation of sex workers through compulsory rehabilitation and imprisonment.  There is also talk that the government may bring in an amendment to the Bill which would criminalise clients despite evidence from Sweden, where similar legislation has been introduced, that it has made women more vulnerable to violence.

The aim of the meeting is to inform MPs, Peers and others about the dangers of the Bill and the breadth of opposition to any further criminalisation of women and other attempts to push prostitution further underground.

Speakers will include:

  • Andrea Spyropoulos, Royal College of Nursing
  • Cari Mitchell, English Collective of Prostitutes
  • Harry Fletcher, National Association Probation Officers
  • John Furniss, Multiple Choice Rehabilitation Centre, Leeds
  • Michelle Tasker, unjustly imprisoned for 3 years for trafficking
  • Pauline Campbell, mother of Sarah who died in the ‘care’ of HMP Styal
  • Revd Paul Nicolson, Zacchaeus 2000 trust, anti poverty campaigner
  • Sue Conlon, Tyndalwoods Solicitors
  • Toni Cole, sister of heroin addict, ex-sex worker & drugs counsellor

For interviews or information contact:

English Collective of Prostitutes   020 7482 2496 or 07811 964 171

ecp@prostitutescollective.net   www.prostitutescollective.net

During the second reading of the Bill, John McDonnell MP commented:

 ‘We need to move forward into a caring, welfare approach, rather than a criminal process. We need to look at the resources. On that basis, when the Bill comes back on Report, I will seek to remove clause 72 and insert clauses that realistically tackle the problem and measures that provide the alternative resources to invest in the solutions that are needed’ 

Other comments from Coalition members: 

Cari Mitchell, English Collective of Prostitutes, Safety First co-ordinators
“Compulsory orders under threat of imprisonment are punitive.  How can sex workers be expected to attend rehabilitation meetings when no resources are being made available to address practical needs such as housing, debt, a viable income, treatment for those who want off to get drugs or other help?  How can they be expected to take on other jobs when a criminal record makes that also impossible?  ” 

Reverend Andrew Dotchin, Ipswich

“If offers of help and rehabilitation continue to come with the threat of conviction for non-compliance we diminish the probability of fragile young men and women making the correctchoices to live healthy and helpful lifestyles.” 

John Furniss, Multiple Choice Rehabilitation Centre

“Three meetings is window dressing, meaningless…  People will miss meetings due to their drug use and the need to earn money to support that, and to support their children. What I know from the ‘coal face’ is that Community Rehabilitation Orders offer a lower standard of medical care and displace people.  Drug services are very aware that poverty, being in care, prison and a crap education contribute to addiction, prostitution and shoplifting.  However, in the current matrix, projects are funnelled into being soft and not so soft police and agents of the courts.”

 Harry Fletcher, Assistant General Secretary, National Association of Probation Officers

“These new measures will turn the clock back by 25 years.  Thousands of prostitutes face the prospect of being jailed for up to 72 hours if they fail to obey new court orders set out in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill.  The order will require the offender to attend a series of three meetings with a named supervisor who will in all probability be from the Probation Service. It is highly unlikely that three sessions with a trained counsellor will persuade any prostitutes to give up their work.  A high breach rate will, therefore, lead to yet more prison and police cell overcrowding.”

Howard Catton, Royal College of Nursing

The Royal College of Nursing have called for the decriminalisation of prostitutes and is opposed to clause 72 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill.  The RCN believes it is critical that both access to healthcare services and our understanding of the health needs of prostitutes is significantly improved. 

Siobhan Kilkenny, sex worker project

“Criminalisation impacts massively on the safety of vulnerable women. Over a three month period, we had 30 instances of violence against sex workers – which were in no way are a reflection of all the violence.  Of these about a quarter were reported to the police. To my knowledge, none went anywhere after the initial officer.  Projects are asked for monthly figures around exiting women from prostitution because funding heavily relies on the crime agenda, ie clearing women off the streets, rather the health agenda.  To be treating the most vulnerable women like this is a terrible reflection on the society we live in.”

Toni Cole, 1st private prosecution for rape in England & Wales

“As an ex prostitute, drug counsellor and the sister of a heroin addict, I view Clause 72 as a travesty.  The very idea of compulsory rehabilitation is ludicrous. The want is imperative for rehabilitation – any addict must, first and foremost, want to come off drugs.  When an addict decides that they wish to come off, then, and only then, will any form of rehab be successful. Success will depend upon the support being available to the addict at the time of that momentous decision. . . . Rather than criminalising all clients, it makes legal, moral and social sense to prosecute violent clients when they are reported for rape, attack, abuse and murder.  Not because they want to buy sex!! 

Pauline Campbell mother of Sarah who died in the ‘care’ of HMP Styal

“My concern over this whole issue is that it’s crucial that we do not criminalise women for their occupation, whatever that might be, because once we start to do that, they end up in prison and believe me they do become an invisible issue then, and some die in the so-called care of the State.”

Reverend Paul Nicolson Zacchaeus 2000

“All unemployment benefits are below the government’s poverty threshold.   People do not depend on benefits that are not enough for survival in this increasingly expensive economy.  Other means of survival have to be found. Making people destitute as a matter of policy is institutional violence, it sets the tone and it gives dangerous authority for violence of all kinds.  It is inhuman and it is no way to lead a nation into peace and justice.”

ecp@prostitutescollective.net
020 7482 2496