Ms Norman, the 70-year-old woman who was arrested because she stayed to try to save the life of a man who had collapsed in the brothel where she was working as a cleaner, was today found guilty of assisting in the management of a brothel.
Cari Mitchell from the English Collective of Prostitutes, which has been supporting Ms Norman and who was present in court, commented.
“It is a terrible injustice that a woman who performed a civic duty by trying to save another human being’s life should find herself with a criminal record for her efforts. Shame on the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Judge. If they had any morals or were in anyway concerned for women’s safety this prosecution would never have been brought or Ms Norman would have been found not guilty. How was prosecuting Ms Norman in the public interest?”
Ms Norman was too upset to comment and was very distressed at getting a criminal record. She thanked her supporters and the ECP for sticking with her throughout this ordeal.
This prosecution sends a signal to sex workers everywhere that the police are more concerned with their targets and consequently their funding than with the value of human life. Sex workers who are victims of rape and other violence will be deterred from reporting for fear of being put on trial for prostitution. Violent attackers are more likely to go free as a result.
Ms Norman was convicted of assisting in the management of a brothel because she helped post ONE advert and recorded the details of some clients. Everyone knew that she was the cleaner and not the manager or owner. She got paid £6 an hour. She was given a conditional discharge and has to pay towards court costs. A criminal record wrecks havoc with someone’s life – affecting everything from travel to housing to insurance cover. We now wait to see if the police and courts further persecute Ms Norman by trying to take her savings and assets under proceeds of crime law.
This prosecution flies in the face of the National Police Chiefs’ Council policing strategy which recognises sex workers as “a vulnerable group that we have a responsibility to protect”. Evidence from New Zealand where prostitution was decriminalised in 2003 found that 70% of sex workers said that since decriminalisation they were more likely to report incidents of violence to the police.* In the UK. there are significant differences in the numbers of sex workers reporting violence depending on police policy in that area. For example, in Lancashire, where police made known that their priority was harm reduction, 46% of sex workers reported when they were a victim of crime. This compared to 5% of victims in Nottinghamshire where police had a policy of arresting both sex workers and clients.**