IGRANT women who faced conviction for “using their premises as a brothel” have had charges against them under the Sexual Offences Act withdrawn.
The women, known as Ms O and Ms R, said they were providing sex work in a flat together for safety to support their families.
The English Collective of Prostitutes’ (ECP) Laura Watson said the charges should never have been brought, adding that racism may have been involved in their targeting.
She said: “The police and Crown Prosecution Service seemed to have thought that it would be harder for women, worried about their immigration status, to defend themselves against these unjust charges.”
After leaving court without conviction on Wednesday, Ms O said: “They said I was a criminal but I am a good mother working to make sure my child has a better life.”
Legal Action for Women’s Niki Adams warned that the case could have set a “dangerous” precedent for the conviction of sex workers and expressed disgust that the CPS “tried to extort money” from the women by offering them a caution if they “write over the money seized on their arrest”.
The ECP is calling on the government to decriminalise sex work to promote safety.
However, Nordic Model Now (NMN) said decriminalising would “simply open the floodgates” and send out the message that there is nothing wrong with paying for the sexual use of another human being.
NMN chairwoman Anna Fisher instead called for legislation on brothels to be amended to focus on those who profit from another person’s prostitution and not “genuinely independent women who simply share a flat.”
She told the Star: “This case is yet another example of the police pursuing soft targets rather than the dangerous criminals who cause real harm to individuals and the fabric of society.
“Our research has shown that in part of Holbeck in Leeds, where street prostitution is supposedly decriminalised, the police also pursue the women, who are mostly extremely vulnerable, rather than focusing on the ruthless pimps and traffickers who control the women and make obscene profits from their prostitution.
“We must see [prostitution] for what it is: A system of oppression and violence against (mostly) women and girls. A system that maintains men’s individual and collective privilege and hegemony. A system that makes vast profits for third parties.”