08/01 UPDATE: VICTORY! Charges withdrawn against both women! More info to follow shortly…
Two women arrested for working together for safety are being charged as tenants with “permitting premises to be used for prostitution”.
Two women (Ms O and Ms R) are due to appear at North Surrey Magistrates Court on 8 January 2020 charged with “a tenant permitting premises to be used for prostitution.” Unbelievably, they are being prosecuted despite neither woman’s name being on the tenancy. Each woman is charged with permitting the other woman to use the premises.
The women were raided by police on 19 September. They suspect they were reported by a vindictive man who tried to extort free sex from them. During the raid the police took the week’s rent money and every other penny on the premises without giving a receipt.
Ms O and Ms R are friends, and neither was forcing the other to work. They are migrant women and suspect that this is the reason they were targeted for arrest. Virtually every penny they earned was being sent back to support their families.
They were originally charged with “managing a brothel”. With support from Cari Mitchell from the ECP, who found a lawyer to represent them, they went to court earlier this month and pleaded not guilty determined to fight the case. Faced with this resistance, the prosecutor offered a police caution. The women refused because cautions show up on DBS checks, in some cases forever and on police certificates, used in immigration cases. The CPS then reduced the charges to “permitting premises to be used for prostitution”.
Prosecuting women for working together undermines safety. Women are forced to choose between possible arrest and keeping themselves safe, or avoiding a criminal record and putting themselves in danger. No woman should have to make that choice. If convicted, women get a criminal record that will block them leaving prostitution and finding other employment.
Permitting premises to be used for prostitution seems to be a minor charge but it can only be heard in front of a magistrate, not a jury, and magistrates are notoriously biased and known for rubber stamping the police actions. Prosecuting women in this way contravenes National Police Chiefs Council Sex Work Guidance which says that sex workers safety should be prioritized and acknowledges that “simple enforcement does not produce sustainable outcomes and can actually increase the vulnerability of sex workers to violent attack”. The Guidance also states that “brothel closures and ‘raids’ create a mistrust of all external agencies . . . and ultimately reduces the amount of intelligence submitted to the police and puts sex workers at greater risk” pp10.
In addition, the prestigious Home Affairs Committee report on prostitution (2016) recommended that sex workers working on the street and in premises should be decriminalised. Most recently, government funded research confirmed that financial need and criminalisation create the “perfect cocktail of conditions” for undermining sex workers’ safety. CPS guidance reports that for summary offences there is discretion not to arrest or report people for prosecution.
We know this is a busy time but please use the template letter below to write demanding this prosecution be dropped immediately. The case comes to court on 8 January, so time is of the essence.
Please copy your letter to us firstname.lastname@example.org
Please write to:
Chief Crown Prosecutor, CPS South East
Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge
London SE1 9HS
Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey
01483 630 200
Chief Constable Gavin Stephens
David Lammy MP
Neil Coyle MP
Dear Frank Ferguson,
Re Ms O and Ms R
case number: 45RM4216719
I am writing to express my concern about the prosecution of Ms O and Ms R who are being prosecuted under Section 36 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 with a tenant permitting premises to be used for prostitution. The case is due to be heard at North Surrey Magistrates Court, 8 January 2020.
What is the public interest in these two women being prosecuted? The women were working in the flat together for safety when they were raided by police on 19 September. They suspect they were reported by a vindictive man who tried to extort free sex from them.
Ms O and Ms R are friends and neither was forcing the other to work. They are migrant women and suspect that this is the reason they were targeted for arrest. Virtually every penny they earned was being sent back to support their families. During the raid the police took the week’s rent money and every other penny on the premises without giving a receipt.
[You can say something personal about why you are writing.]
The implications of prosecuting Ms O and Ms R are very serious. What sex worker in Surrey is now going to risk bringing herself to the attention of the police if they need to report a violent assailant? Prosecuting women for working together for safety contravenes police guidelines and a parliamentary report that sex workers should be decriminalised. Growing evidence points to massive increases in prostitution because of poverty and that criminalising women puts them at greater risk of violence.
In the interests of justice and public safety I ask that you ensure the prosecution of Ms O and Ms R is stopped. Thank you.