Action Alert: please protest Redbridge Council’s proposal for £100 fines against people involved in prostitution.
Redbridge Council have launched a consultation on a proposed policy to extend Public Spaces Protection Orders to the whole borough. This would give them the power to fine people £100 for prostitution related activities and ban people from areas during particular times of the days using civil injunctions.
Please protest by filling in the consultation here.
The deadline for responses is Sunday 11 March.
Points to consider are:
- Why are the council promoting further crackdowns which undermine safety instead of looking at what makes sex workers vulnerable to violence? Senior police officers at the time of the tragic murder of Marianna Popa in Redbridge in 2012, voiced concerns that “operations to tackle the trade are ‘counterproductive’ and likely to put the lives of women at risk”.
- Civil orders, such as Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, Criminal Behaviour Orders, community protection notices, Public Spaces Protection Orders and dispersal notices rely on police discretion and hearsay evidence and require a lower standard of proof. Yet breach of a civil order is a criminal offence and can carry a hefty fine and even a prison sentence.
- Police, council workers and Community Support Officers can all issue the fine if they have reason to believe a person has committed an offence. The evidence they need is extremely vague e.g. they have to be “satisfied that the effect, or likely effect, of the activities is, or is likely to be of a persistent or continuing nature and these activities are unreasonable”.
- Allowing unelected officials to fine people based on their own discretion is dangerous. It encourages discrimination, particularly sexism, racism, classism. Women of colour, immigrant and trans women are most likely to be targeted.
- Despite claiming sex workers are ‘largely there under force and should be treated as a victim’ the consultation is not just about fining clients. It asks for feedback on the idea of fining people committing “any prostitution related anti-social behaviour in public spaces throughout the borough.”
- They are targeting people “gathering in groups of two or more whilst engaging in nuisance or criminal behaviour” which puts sex workers wishing to work with others for safety at risk. Who’s to say what is a nuisance? The consultation also asks about more punitive measures like Civil Injunctions which could force sex workers out of the areas they live and have developed safety networks.
- Concern about the “number of sex workers” in the area would be better addressed by measures to reduce poverty, homelessness and low wages. Does the council pay a living wage to its employees? Does it only issue contracts to companies that also pay a living wage? Has it looked at the impact of benefit sanctions, the benefit cap and other cuts on people in the borough and taken measures to address this? The council doesn’t offer any concrete help to sex workers in the news article, in the consultation or in the proposed PSPO. There is no ‘carrot’ in their “carrot and stick approach”, just more money for the council and fewer spaces that sex workers can exist in.
- These measures are disproportionate to the resident’s original complaints of litter, commercial stickers, and some people being approached by people wishing to buy sex. Bins and other resources could be used to address these problems. The council are using the complaints as an excuse to gain wide-ranging punitive powers.
 As poverty in the UK rises, more women, particularly single mothers, are turning to sex work to survive and feed their families. In some cities massive rises in prostitution are being directly attributed to benefit sanctions: Doncaster reports a 60 per cent increase with charities saying: “Women are being forced to sell sex for £5 because of benefit sanctions.” (The Star, 19 March 2014.) Sheffield reports a 166% increase (The Star, 1 June 2014) while charity workers in Hull report: “ . . . women who are literally starving and they are out there to feed themselves.” (Hull Daily Mail, 13 August 2013).
 Rough sleeping levels in England have increased by 132% since 2010 (Independent, 12 September 2017) and nearly 60,000 families were declared homeless by local authorities between April 2016 and March 2017 – a rise of 34% on the same period in 2010-11 (Independent, 10 August 2017). Shockingly single mothers make up 47% of those who are statutory homeless (The Guardian, 25 September 2017). A quarter of young homeless women have engaged in sex work to fund accommodation or in the hope of getting a bed for the night (Crisis 2012).
 Recent research shows that two in every five people employed in the UK are in ‘bad jobs’ – defined as jobs which do not provide a secure, living wage (New Economics Foundation 2017).