Action Alert: Stop the prosecution of a woman falsely accused of prostitution
Please write urgently to protest this injustice to the addresses below. This prosecution is not in the public interest and should be dropped. Model letter below.
To: Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions email@example.com
CPS, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS
Cc: CPS North East Case Progression Team firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cooperage 8 Gainsford Street, Bermondsey, SE1 2NE. (DX161230 Bermondsey 4).
Rushanara Ali MP email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA 020 7219 7200
347 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9RA
And: English Collective of Prostitutes email@example.com 020 7482 2496
On Friday 12 July, 10am at Stratford Magistrates Court, Ms CH faces charges of breaching an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO) which bans her from loitering throughout the whole borough of Tower Hamlets for 26 years. This offence carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Ms CH is not guilty of loitering. She lives in Tower Hamlets — her home is in the red-light area! Every time she leaves her house she risks being arrested for loitering regardless of what she is doing. On this occasion she was waiting for a taxi.
What is the evidence needed to prove loitering? “Standing on a street corner looking in the direction of several men” has been enough in some cases. So it isn’t what you do, it is who you are that seems to be the greatest proof of street prostitution. How is a woman who has worked in the past ever able to defend herself and be believed when the case relies on hearsay evidence from the police alone and is heard before magistrates who rubber stamp what the police say.
Ms CH was given the ASBO about four years ago when she was ill and not in a position to challenge it. Some of the evidence used didn’t even relate to her but to another woman. Instead of providing support, Ms CH feels the police took advantage of her vulnerable state. The Metropolitan Police have acknowledged that pursuing sex workers for ASBOs undermines safety because it deters women from reporting rape and other violence.
There are other factors in this case that should be taken into account:
Ms H is the devoted mother of a three-year-old boy. She just got permanent housing near to where her son lives. If she is convicted she may be imprisoned “causing long-term emotional, social, material and psychological damage” [Howard League, Voice of a Child, 2011] to both child and mother. Ms CH could also be made homeless again which she fears would drive her back onto the street.
Ms H is also a victim of rape and other violence. She has been attacked countless times while working but only reported one attack to the police — she felt compelled to do so because her injuries were so severe and she feared that the man would attack other women. She courageously gave evidence in court and the man was convicted. Now she feels she can’t go to the police because she’ll be arrested.
In the name of women’s safety, ASBOs must be abolished. They are used to unfairly target sex workers for arrest and imprisonment and shunt women around, often into more isolated areas, where they are more at risk of violence. At a time of vicious cuts in public services and increased unemployment and poverty, women need money to feed themselves and their families, not criminalisation and imprisonment.
Protest outside Stratford Magistrates Court 9.30 – 10.30, Friday 12 July and then attend court to support Ms CH.
I write [add something about your circumstances and why you are concerned/protesting] to ask that the prosecution of Ms CH for breaching an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO) be dropped. The ASBO is draconian. It bans her from loitering throughout the whole borough of Tower Hamlets for 26 years. Breaching an ASBO carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Ms CH lives in Tower Hamlets — her home is in the red-light area. Every time she leaves her house she risks being arrested for loitering regardless of what she is doing. On this occasion she was waiting for a taxi. ASBOs are deeply unfair. They are given out on the basis of hearsay evidence from the police. No-one needs to come to court to give evidence that a nuisance was caused to them. Magistrates nearly always rubber stamp the police evidence.
A conviction for breaching an ASBO could wreck Ms CH’s life. She is the devoted mother of a three-year-old boy. She just got permanent accommodation near to where her son lives. If she is convicted she may be imprisoned. 17,000 children are already separated from their mother by imprisonment “causing long-term emotional, social, material and psychological damage” [Howard League, Voice of a Child, 2011]. Ms CH would be made homeless again which she fears would drive her back onto the street.
Pursuing ASBOs against sex workers undermines safety, shunts women around often into more isolated areas where they are more at risk of violence. The Metropolitan Police have acknowledged that it deters women from reporting violence. At a time when more women are going into prostitution to feed themselves and their families, why isn’t help being provided instead of criminalisation and imprisonment.
There is no public interest in pursuing this case and we urge you to drop the prosecution.