Legal Victories

Successful private prosecution of serial rapist – R v Davies

 In 1995, two women brought the first successful private prosecution for rape in England and Wales with the support of the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) and Women Against Rape (WAR). Both women had independently reported being attacked in what turned out to be remarkably similar circumstances. Yet the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. The ECP and WAR found lawyers ready to work for free and Davies was indicted on charges of rape, indecent assault, false imprisonment, wounding and assault causing actual bodily harm arising out of the two incidents which had taken place in December 1991 and in September 1992.  He was convicted of nearly all the charges including rape against one woman and sentenced to 14 years in prison (reduced to 11 on appeal). The evidence before the court was exactly the same as that which the CPS decided was insufficient to prosecute. After the trial, the women applied to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board for compensation as they were entitled to but had their award reduced by a half on the grounds of “character and conduct”. Their courage and determination, which got a serial attacker off the streets, appeared to count for nothing. Isn’t there a Guardian article?

Rapist jailed after prostitutes bring private prosecution  (The Independent, 20
September 1995) 

“The Davies case will be seen as another dent in the reputation of the CPS.” (The Times, 20 September 1995)

“This [case] had a profound impact on the way that the authorities saw victims of rape. . .”  (UK Criminal Law Blog, 16th November 2012)

Convicted of trafficking despite judge’s admission that no woman was “coerced”.

 In 2005, a Brazilian mother was convicted of trafficking and imprisoned for three years for running a working flat where other immigrant women worked.  In court the judge said “none of these women were, in fact, coerced by you into acting as a prostitute . . . you treated them in a kindly and hospitable way”.  All her possessions, built up over many years of hard work, were confiscated under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act. Her ex-husband tried to get custody of her youngest child and despite living in the UK for 25 years, her British citizenship was withdrawn.  Her partner was convicted of “trafficking within the UK” for picking her and another woman up at the airport.

 Minister’s claim that women “making tea and helping to keep the women safe” will not be prosecuted, ring hollow. (Minister of State, Alan Campbell, Hansard 19 January 2009)

In April 2009, a woman (Ms W) was charged under section 33 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 (SOA 1956) with “assisting in the management of a brothel” at two premises. Ms W had no responsibility for either flat.  She was not a tenant, did not hold keys and did not pay any of the bills. Her role was to ensure the safety of other women.

Legal Action for Women (the legal service initiated by the ECP in 1982) protested about the prosecution to Keir Starmer, the attorney general:

“Two years ago, Ms W bravely escaped from a violent partner after 28 years of abuse.  She is presently struggling to support herself, her disabled daughter and elderly mother who is housebound having suffered a stroke.  Any prosecution would have a severe detrimental effect on her mental and physical wellbeing and on the welfare of her daughter and mother.” 

After an 18 month public campaign the prosecution was dropped.

Woman charged with “running a disorderly house” after she reports racist attack from neighbour.

 In August 2009, a woman who was working on her own from home in Tyne and Wear was charged with the archaic offences of “running a disorderly house” and “running a bawdy house under common law”. She believed she was targeted by police because she had previously reported a serious racist attack by a neighbour (which included calling her a “wog”, throwing faeces at her house and smashing her car window) and had complained when the police took no action.

During her arrest, the woman suffered the humiliation of being made to change her clothes in the presence of male police officers. During interrogation, officers made disparaging comments saying why didn’t she “get a job in Primark” and tried to imply that she was a morally corrupting influence by saying that “children were in the area”.  As a dedicated and caring mother of a severely disabled child, the woman was particularly upset by this.  She was later reported to social services, her son’s disability benefits were cut and she was charged with child neglect. The racist neighbour was never pursued.

Black Women’s Rape Action Project campaigned with the ECP and after three years all charges against her were dropped and her benefits reinstated.

Charged with trafficking for driving a friend between two English towns

 In January 2010, a Thai woman was charged with trafficking and brothel-keeping. She worked in a flat with other women where she organised the advertising and paid the rent. She and her husband had given a lift in their car to a sex worker they had known for years, from one town to another in England. Women who worked with her were her friends. She prioritised safety and there was no evidence of force or coercion. She pleaded guilty to ensure that charges also brought against her eldest daughter would be dropped.  She and her husband then had to fight money laundering charges under proceeds of crime legislation. Her husband lost his IT job because of press coverage. She is now working as a masseuse to support the family.

 Successful defence of “duress of circumstances” against brothel-keeping charges 

In 2010, Ms Finch (R v Finch, Luton Crown Court) was prosecuted for “keeping/ managing a brothel” (SOA 1956).  Ms Finch worked collectively with friends at her home, prioritising safety. Following an 18 month public campaign, spearheaded by the ECP, she was acquitted using what is thought to be the only successful defence of its kind, the defence of necessity/duress of circumstances. Barrister Anna Morris, Garden Court Chambers reports: “The case involved an analysis of the law and public policy surrounding the collective organisation of sex workers for their own safety.”

“’Happy endings’ massage boss cleared of running brothel”, (BBC, 29 April 2010)

Police boost funds from assets taken in raids on prostitutes, (The Observer, 25 April 2010)

Police and CPS profit from raids, arrests and prosecutions.

 In 2010, a woman was convicted of assisting in the management of a brothel for working in a sauna in Birmingham. She worked two days a week and had only been there for six weeks. Despite her minimal involvement in the running of the premises the law on brothel-keeping is so wide-ranging that she was advised that she could be convicted. She pleaded guilty to avoid exposure because she was worried for her teenage daughter. She was sentenced to 80 hours community service but then spent three years fighting a confiscation order for £10,000 (way above the amount she earned). During this time her new born baby died but she was still treated brutally by the court until Legal Action for Women advocated on her behalf. She nearly lost her home and had to take out a bank loan to pay off the debt.

Imprisoned for working to support her disabled son

 In 2010, a woman was charged with brothel-keeping. She had decided to work with other women after she had a knife held to her throat whilst working as an escort.  She had a teenage son with special needs so decided to plead guilty because she thought that was the best way to ensure that she didn’t get a prison sentence. Despite an excellent probation report the judge gave her nine months custodial sentence.  Her entire life savings which she had been putting aside for her child, were confiscated under proceeds of crime legislation. As a woman of colour, she felt that racism was behind why she was treated so harshly.

Arrested for reporting violence

In February 2011, Ms Lorraine Morris was convicted for “keeping/managing a brothel (SOA 2003). Ms Morris was arrested after she dialled 999 to report a serious attack on a woman in a flat used by her escort agency.  Two identifiable men, one with a sawn-off shotgun up his sleeve, threw petrol about, threatening to torch the premises and held the woman against her will. Information Ms Morris gave to the police on the understanding that it was being used to pursue the assailants was used to prosecute her.  The case against the attackers was dropped.  An abuse of process case Ms Morris brought against the Police was thrown out. Under threat of a custodial sentence Ms Morris, who had two young children pleaded guilty to brothel-keeping and received a community sentence. She was then pursued under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act and lost her home and her savings. Attacks on other women working locally rose following the case.

New laws put prostitutes at risk, claim escort agencies, (The Independent, 29 December 2009)

 Pensioner prosecuted for keeping women safe

In 2011, a 72 year old woman was charged with “keeping/managing a brothel” (SOA 2003) and money laundering. Despite a woman working in the flat confirming that she was there for her safety, the jury at Luton Crown Court found her guilty on both counts. It came out in court that she was the sole carer for her seriously ill husband and was working to pay off their substantial debts. The judge gave her a conditional discharge but she was then threatened with losing her home, her only asset, under proceeds of crime legislation. She credits the ECP’s campaign with saving her house from confiscation.

Guilty of wanting to be safe

In January 2012, Sheila Farmer was prosecuted for keeping/ managing a brothel (SOA 2003). Ms Farmer became a single mother at aged 23. With great difficulty she trained and got work as a computer programmer but after she lost her eyesight and developed a brain tumour as a result of childhood diabetes, she turned to sex work to support her son. She worked on her own but in one horrific incident was raped, tied up and nearly strangled to death and vowed never to work alone again. In the flat where she worked with other women everyone kept their own money but jointly paid towards the rent, bills and advertising. In September 2011 the flat was raided and Ms Farmer arrested. Ms Farmer, who by now was seriously ill, fought an 18-month campaign including numerous court appearances. On the day of the trial the prosecution dropped the case. Ms Farmer has since died.

Life is hard enough for prostitutes without our work being criminalised, (The Guardian, 6 January 2012)

Mass police raids against sex workers in the name of anti-trafficking

In December 2013, 250 police raided sex worker’s flats in Soho (central London). Over 20 flats were closed and women were handcuffed and dragged in their underwear onto the streets. The ECP and Soho Working Girls organised intensively against the closures, getting legal advice and publicising the injustice of the raids. 18 of the 20 flats were reopened.

Rupert Everett in defence of prostitutes: ‘There is a land grab going on’, (The Guardian, 19 January 2014)

Banned from loitering in her home borough for 26 years.

In 2014, a sex worker challenged charges of having breached an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO) banning her for 26 years from loitering in the London borough where she lives. With the support of the ECP which mounted a publicity campaign and helped her prepare for court, she was found not guilty!  If she had been convicted she could have faced up to five years in prison and been separated from her son.

“Not Guilty of Breaching Anti-social Behaviour Order” 

Arrested illegally because friend was carrying condoms

In May 2015, a Romanian woman was arrested for loitering for the purposes of prostitution while walking down a road in North London with a friend. The reason given by police for the arrest was that her friend was carrying condoms. She wanted to contest the charge because she wasn’t working at the time so contacted the ECP. We established that the police had not followed the procedure laid down in the Street Offences Act 1959, (updated in the Policing and Crime Act (PCA) 2009) of issuing two “prostitute” cautions before arrest. We found her a lawyer who made representations to the Crown Prosecution Service and on her second appearance at Highbury Magistrates Court in June, the charges were dropped.

Arbitrary ‘Prostitute Cautions’ Are Chaining British Sex Workers to the Streets, (Vice Magazine 6 March 2015)

Forced to resign from NHS job after allegations of advertising services on adult websites.

In 2015, a woman working for an NHS Trust was forced to resign under threat of immediate dismissal for “behaving in a manner that would not be acceptable in any situation” and “bringing the Trust into disrepute” following allegations that she advertised services on adult websites.

Ms Molloy was a dedicated employee of the Trust for many years, had an excellent work record and had no contact with the public or patients in her administrator role. It was clear that her dismissal had been instigated for no other reason than moral judgement about her out of work activities.

Despite being humiliated, discriminated against and having her confidentiality breached, her trade union which she’d been a member of for eight years was reluctant to defend her, outrageously even siding with her employer and undermining her rights.

With Legal Action for Women (a grassroots legal service initiated by the ECP in 1982) we pressed her trade union rep to act. As a result, her case of constructive dismissal and compensation for loss of earnings, seniority and pension rights was taken up by a senior regional trade union rep who defended her against the unfair, unjust and discriminatory treatment from her employer.

In 2016, she won her case after a judge ruled that the Trust “did not undertake a proper disciplinary procedure”. Outrageously, he endorsed the view she had brought the Trust into disrepute and awarded her compensation only because the Trust had not followed the correct procedure? A poll by a local paper found 69% of people thought that she should have been allowed to keep her job.

Sacked NHS worker who led secret double life as porn star wins unfair dismissal case (Liverpool Echo, 22 August 2016)