Action Alert: Marie B court case – Please write to DPP

Dear Friends,

We just heard that Marie B is in court tomorrow. Ms B is a 72 year old woman charged with brothel keeping and money laundering. Her case is tomorrow, 21 March, Court 5, Luton Crown Court at 10am.

Ms B worked as a receptionist at a flat which was raided on 21 January 2011.  Her primary role was to ensure other women’s safety: she had no involvement in the running of the premises. Ms B and her husband are pensioners, in poor health, living on the breadline and struggling to pay off substantial debts.  A man has pleaded guilty to brothel-keeping for the same property and is being pursued under Proceeds of Crime law.  There is no evidence of force or coercion against any of the women working at the flat. All were mothers supporting families on their income.

We wrote to Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, asking him to investigate why this prosecution is being brought. He referred the case to the local prosecutor who only just got in touch yesterday but has so far not been ready to justify why this prosecution is considered to be in the public interest.

At this late stage please can you show your support for Ms Bonavia by coming to court and writing to protest (model letter below).

Send your letter to: Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, privateoffice@cps.gsi.gov.uk

Copy to:

Deborah Minett, District Crown Prosecutor, Deborah.Minett@cps.gsi.gov.uk &

Herts.crowngateway@cps.gsi.gov.uk

Barry Gardiner MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA             020 7219 4246       (ask for his office) gardinerb@parliament.uk

and to us:

English Collective of Prostitutes, ecp@prostitutescollective.net 020 7482 2496

Dear Keir Starmer,

I write to protest in the strongest terms about the prosecution of Ms Marie Bonavia for brothel-keeping and money laundering. We understand that you were asked by the English Collective of Prostitutes to look into this case but the prosecution is proceeding regardless at Luton Crown Court Wednesday 21 March.

Ms Bonavia is over 70 years old, in poor health and is the sole carer for her disabled husband. She was working as a receptionist at a flat in Hatfield, opening the door and answering the phone. Her primary role was to ensure other women’s safety – you must know that sex workers working alone are much more vulnerable to rape and attack.  The flat was raided on 21 January 2011. According to CPS guidelines Ms Bonavia’s involvement in this small business should have been judged as “minor” and she should not have been prosecuted for brothel-keeping.

The money laundering charge is equally unfair. As far as can be determined, it is based on a money-slip for an account in the name of a man who has already pleaded guilty to running the premises, being found at Ms Bonavia’s house.

Ms Bonavia intends to defend herself vigorously against these charges but she is terrified that if found guilty she would risk losing her home under Proceeds of Crime legislation. For Ms Bonavia and her husband, their home is the only security they have and the threat of this being taken from them is having a devastating effect on their mental and physical health.

The Crown Prosecution Service deserves to be held in contempt for proceeding with this cruel and wasteful prosecution.  We urge you to put a stop to it immediately.