The prostitution laws are unjust and devious and lead to thousands of women a year being arrested, raided, prosecuted and even imprisoned.
Police crackdowns break up safety networks. (i) Street workers are forced into isolated areas and are prevented from screening clients. Brothel-keeping law makes it illegal for two or more sex workers to work together. Landlords, security guards, employers and friends are convicted of “causing, inciting and controlling prostitution for gain” even though they weren’t forcing anyone to work.
Below are just some of the cases brought to the attention of the ECP. We don’t know the nationality of all the women involved but there is evidence that immigrant women are disproportionally targeted for arrest.
- Bracknell, a woman and man found guilty of brothel-keeping, sentenced to suspended prison sentence despite the judge stating that “. . . at neither property was there any evidence of girls who were underage or any illegal immigrants or anyone under any duress.”
- Bolton, two charges against a landlord accused ofletting out a property as a brothel dropped before the case came to court. Here
- Crawley, three women released on bail pending further investigation of brothel-keeping. Here
- Oxford, Romanian woman charged with four offences of keeping, managing, acting or assisting in the management of a brothel. Sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, released and deported. Here
- Wolverhampton, seven street sex workers issued with warnings for loitering and one arrested. Four men caught soliciting. Three men referred to a kerbcrawler rehabilitation scheme. Here and Here
- Northampton, woman convicted of managing a brothel. Here
- Edinburgh, six men and five women charged with brothel-keeping. Charges later dropped. Here
- Sevenoaks, a woman found guilty of profiteering from prostitution and assisting in the management of a brothel. Here
- Kirkby, a man found guilty of controlling prostitution despite no evidence of force or coercion. Sentenced to 14 months in prison. Here
- Southall, brothel closed, not known if any arrests were made. Here
- Reading, suspected brothel shut down for three months, application made for closure order. Here
- Ilford, police shut down 11 suspected brothels in the past month. Man arrested on suspicion of controlling prostitution for gain and proceeds of crime offences. Released on bail. Here
- Barrow, police shut down three ‘pop up brothels’ in hotels. Women involved not prosecuted. Here and Here
- Sevenoaks, raid on the premises of a “suspected brothel” resulted in the arrest of a man and woman who were bailed pending further enquiries. Here
- Swindon, brothel raid and closure order against a flat where two Polish women lived and worked. They have since disappeared. Here
- Northampton, woman pleaded guilty to a charge of managing a brothel. Here
- Luton, police crackdown on street and indoor work. One week 48 vehicles stopped and 34 sex workers moved on. Over 30 letters sent to people believed to be kerb crawling. House operating as a brothel closed down. Here
- Greater Manchester, 24 people arrested over one week in police crackdown which claims to be targeting human trafficking. Here
- Redbridge, brothel closure against a “suspected brothel”. Two women fined for “putting up prostitution stickers in the area”. In the last year 17 other people have been caught posting “prostitution stickers” with some being fined on the spot and others sent to court. Here
- Tamworth, brothel closed, man charged with managing/assisting in the management of a brothel. Here
- Glasgow, four properties raided in cooperation with the Romanian police and Europol. One man arrested in connection with brothel-keeping Here and Here
- Harrow, brothel closure order against a flat. Here
- Medway, man convicted and sentenced to three-and-a-half years on two offences of controlling prostitution for gain and seven of keeping a brothel used for prostitution. Here
- Reading, two suspected brothels raided and closure orders granted for three months. Here and Here
- London, prostitution and sexual exploitation crackdown in Westminster, three people arrested for money laundering, £10,000 seized under Proceeds of Crime Act. Here
Additionally, the police, who would be given greater powers under proposals to criminalise clients, have been convicted of abusing sex workers.
- February 2016 – Merseyside, one male police officer found guilty of misconduct in a public office (blackmailing a sex worker for sex). Sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Here.
Sex workers have commented about how the laws make it more dangerous to work:
“I worked alone and within months, I was attacked, raped repeatedly, tied up, held hostage, and nearly strangled. I decided never to work alone again.” (ii)
It is time that the prostitution laws are abolished. New Zealand decriminalised sex work in 2003 with verifiable success. A government review has shown positive results: no rise in prostitution; women able to report violence without fear of arrest; attacks cleared up more quickly; sex workers more able to leave prostitution as convictions are cleared from their records; drug users treated as patients not criminals.
(i) “Two of Britain’s most senior police chiefs” said: “operations to tackle the trade are ‘counterproductive’” and likely to “put the lives of women at risk”.