We have asked you to write before in support of Sheila Farmer demanding that her prosecution for brothel-keeping be dropped. We ask now if you can please write again.
Ms Farmer’s case has been widely publicised: despite her ill health she spoke to 5000 people at the SlutWalk march in Trafalgar Sq on 11 June, a protest was held outside the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on 1st July, over a thousand people have written to her MP, and Women Against Rape and ourselves met with DPP Keir Starmer urging him to intervene, which he has so far refused to do. However, there is a strong indication that all the letters and publicity are having an impact.
The CPS has put out misinformation saying that Ms Farmer ran a nuisance brothel and was prosecuted because neighbours complained. None of the neighbours’ complaints were substantiated. Some were clearly false including a claim that children were on the premises. The police visited the premises and knew that Ms Farmer was leaving and still raided the flat a week later and arrested Ms Farmer. Further proof that this prosecution is vindictive.
We include below a model letter. Please add personal details and your own views as it will have more impact.
The case comes to court on 3 January 2012. The letter should be sent to:
Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions
Crown Prosecution Service
Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge,
London SE1 9HS
Jo Johnson MP,
House of Commons,
London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 7125
And to the English Collective of Prostitutes at the address above.
Dear Keir Starmer,
I’m writing to ask for the prosecution of Sheila Farmer to be dropped immediately. Ms Farmer is a 50-year-old cancer patient and is being prosecuted for managing a brothel. Her case comes to court on 5 September.
[Add something about who you are and your situation].
Ms Farmer has been a diabetic since childhood. She had to leave her job as an IT consultant due to progressive loss of vision, the result of her life-long condition. She went into prostitution to provide for herself and her son. At first, she worked on her own. Within six months, she was viciously attacked, raped and nearly killed. To protect herself she decided to work with others. There was no force or coercion involved and all the women had control over their own earnings.
Ms Farmer now has a malignant brain tumour. Her hospital consultant has written to the court saying “I am afraid the future is uncertain and one can almost guarantee that the tumour will grow and progress in the relatively near future. If possible it would be medically justifiable to try and avoid any stress associated with any prolonged Court hearing.”
Not only does Ms Farmer face a prolonged trial, she faces up to seven years in prison for a consensual act which should not be criminalised.
Sex workers’ safety should be prioritised. It is much safer for sex workers to work together. If sex workers are prosecuted they will be less likely to come forward to report rape and other violence. Violent men know this and are being given a green light by the authorities to attack. [Add something about why you are concerned about rape and other violence.]
Other points you may want to include:
- Ms Farmer is one of hundreds of women who are being prosecuted for brothel-keeping or related charges for working together for safety. Hanna Morris was charged with prostitution offences after she dialled 999 to report a serious attack on her colleague. The attackers went free despite comprehensive information being given to the police of their identity and location. News of that prosecution has spread and is deterring other sex workers from coming forward. More women will be raped and even killed as a result.
- As poverty increases, more women, particularly mothers, are being forced into prostitution. Government research found that 74% of women working indoors and 28% of women working outdoors “cited the need to pay household expenses and support their children as the prime motivating factor”. A criminal record makes it harder to leave the sex industry and find other employment.
- Under Proceeds of Crime law the police keep 50% of assets confiscated during raids and 25% from subsequent prosecutions, with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) keeping another 25%. Women have lost their life savings, house and possessions. It seems that raids, arrests and prosecutions are being fuelled by a desire of the police and CPS to profit. There is also widespread corruption with accusations from women of the police being paid to bring the press with them on raids.
- The CPS has wide discretion in which offences it prosecutes. Lord Shawcross, Attorney General, in 1951 made this clear: “It has never been the rule in this country — I hope it never will be — that suspected criminal offences must automatically be the subject of prosecution”. (House of Commons Debates, volume 483, column 681, 29 January 1951.)
Given all the circumstances of this case, we cannot understand how this prosecution can be judged to be in the public interest. I urge you to drop the case immediately.