By the English Collective of Prostitutes
Co-ordinators of the SAFETY FIRST COALITION
Third Reading Tuesday 19 May.
Using flawed trafficking statistics as justification, the measures target anyone involved in prostitution whether or not there is force or coercion. They would drive prostitution further underground and sex workers into even more danger. In the present recession, and combined with the Welfare Reform Bill also going through parliament, they will have a devastating effect, first of all on women and their families.
We urge you to:
§ SUPPORT AMENDMENTS: 2, 4, 6, 7, 142
§ SUPPORT NEW CLAUSES: Definition of a brothel used for prostitution and Decriminalise Child Prostitution
§ OPPOSE CLAUSES: 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, & 25 and Part Five on Proceeds of Crime.
CLAUSE 13: “Paying for sexual services of a prostitute controlled for gain.”
SUPPORT AMENDMENT 2 – removes strict liability,
Page 15 [Clause 13], leave out lines 33 to 37
Clients face a hefty fine and criminal record for the offence committed regardless of whether he “is, or ought to be, aware that any of [the sex worker’s] activities are controlled for gain.”
Removing strict liability is supported by the Bar Association, Justice and Liberty.
SUPPORT AMENDMENT 4 – replaces controlled with coercion,
Page 5 [Clause 13], leave out lines 31 and 32 and insert—
‘(b) B has been coerced by a third person (C) into providing those services.’
This amendment and amendment 25 below ensure that the law targets the offence the government claims to want to address – that is coercion and trafficking – rather than sex workers and clients indiscriminately.
Unless the legislation is amended, any sex worker who receives help, even if only from a co-worker, receptionist (usually referred to as maid) or partner, may be considered “controlled for gain”. Sex workers will be compelled to work alone leaving them more vulnerable to violence. Safety must be paramount.
In Committee, the government claimed that the offence would not be used to “criminalise those involved in freely consenting transactions.” Yet prosecutions for controlling and brothel-keeping (both of which now carry a sentence of seven years) have increased dramatically since 2005 (Hansard, 15 Jan 2009 answers to Lord Faulkner),and are primarily being used against women working collectively without coercion (see Appendix A: statement re Ms W). Parliamentarians have visited and spoken to sex workers in Soho who are adamant they are not trafficked or forced, yet their receptionists (many of them ex-sex workers) whose primary role is to ensure sex workers’ safety have been threatened with being charged with “controlling prostitution for gain”.
The present definition of trafficking distorts reality and misleads people concerned with safety. It must be replaced with the internationally approved definition. Trafficking has been used as the main justification for these proposals but figures which claim that “80% of women working in the sex industry in the UK have been trafficked” have been thoroughly discredited. The UK charge of trafficking for prostitution, unlike trafficking for any other industry, does not require force or coercion. This enables every woman with a foreign accent to be falsely labelled a victim of trafficking!
SUPPORT NEW CLAUSE 25 – replaces controlled with trafficked or coerced,
Dr Evan Harris, Lynne Jones, John McDonnell
After section 53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (c. 42) insert:
Paying for sexual services of a prostitute known to be trafficked or coerced.
“A person (A) commits an offence if: A makes or promises payment for, or uses, the sexual services of prostitute (B), and, A knows, or ought to know (i) that B is the victim of trafficking, (ii) that the sexual services have been provided through coercion of B (iii) that B has provided sexual services in order to gain access to controlled drugs, or (iv) that a third party has influenced the activity of B by direction or instruction in circumstances where B does not freely consent to such direction or instruction.
“In this section, ‘trafficking’ means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
“In this section, ‘coercion of B’ includes: a) violence against B or another person, b) threats against B or another person, or c) intimidation of B.”
SUPPORT AMENDMENT 142 – delete clause 13,
Dr Evan Harris, Lynne Jones, John McDonnell
Page 15, line 25, leave out Clause 13.
CLAUSE 15: Soliciting is persistent “if it takes place twice over a period of three months”.
SUPPORT AMENDMENT 6 – change definition of persistence,
Page 16, line 32 [Clause 15], leave out ‘three months’ and insert ‘one week’.
Soliciting which takes place more than once in three months cannot be described as persistent and could more appropriately be called “occasional”. To label it as persistent shows an intention to criminalise. It makes a mockery of the abolition of the term common prostitute (Clause 15 (2) (a)) as it will bring no reduction in the number of women arrested.
Criminal records prevent women from getting out of prostitution. Women end up institutionalised as they cannot get other jobs, even when they are qualified for them.
Criminalisation breaks up families. Mothers end up in jail separated from their children, with disastrous consequences first of all for the children.
CLAUSE 16: Compulsory “rehabilitation” under threat of imprisonment.
SUPPORT AMENDMENT 7 – remove clause from Bill,
Page 17, line 1, leave out Clause 16.
Compulsory rehabilitation was thrown out of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill a year ago. Why bring it back? Anyone arrested for loitering or soliciting would have to attend three meetings with a supervisor approved by the court. It is not an alternative to a fine as failure to comply may result in a summons back to court and 72-hours in jail. Women could end up on a treadmill of broken supervision meetings, court orders and imprisonment. Imprisoning women goes against recommendations of the widely respected Corston report (March 2007).
SUPPORT NEW CLAUSE – definition of a brothel used for prostitution,
Amend The Sexual Offences Act 1956 as follows:
“After 33A insert: “33B Definition of a brothel used for prostitution.
1. Premises shall not be regarded as a brothel where –
a) No more than two prostitutes, with or without a maid, are working together or separately on any given day; and;
b) Where each prostitute retains control over her or his individual earnings from the prostitution carried out at the premises.
2. In this section “prostitute” has the meaning given by section 51(2) of the Sexual Offence Act 2003.”
Most brothels are small self-help ventures. The word brothel conjures up images of big exploitative establishments, yet by law two prostitute women sharing premises to work constitute a brothel. Many women prefer to work in small self-run brothels because they offer greater safety, companionship and lower running expenses. Working indoors is 10 times safer than working on the street. Even Fiona Mactaggert admits that. In January 2005, as Home Office Minister, she announced that two women should be able to work together from premises. Why has this been dropped in favour of punitive measures that drive women out of premises?
The Royal College of Nursing which supports the decriminalisation of prostitution voted at this year’s congress by 93% to: “make recommendations to the UK government to allow up to four sex workers to work together legally before requiring a license”.
The Home Office has acknowledged: “ . . .the present definition of brothel ran counter to advice that, in the interests of safety, women should not sell sex alone.” (The Times 18 January 2006).
SUPPORT NEW CLAUSE, decriminalise child prostitution,
Dr Evan Harris
1. The Street Offences Act 1959 (c. 57) is amended as follows.
2. In subsection (1) of section 1, after “prostitute”, insert “aged 18 or over”’.
This amendment decriminalises child prostitution in line with the views of children’s charities and the Magistrates Association among others.
OPPOSE CLAUSE 18: Soliciting “another for the purpose of obtaining sexual services”
The Bill removes the only safeguard against false arrest. Why give police such wide powers? Kerb-crawling is an offence if it is “persistent”. Removing the requirement to prove “persistence, annoyance or nuisance” would increase police powers to arrest anyone on ‘sus’. Victims of institutionalised police racism and other prejudice are likely to be targeted. With a conviction rate for reported rape at a shameful 6%, why isn’t rape being prioritised over prostitution? Given recent public condemnation of police widely abusing their powers under anti-terrorism legislation to target peaceful protesters and others, why is this protection being removed?
Oppose CLAUSE 20: Extending closure orders to brothels
Closure Orders are already being brought against premises where drug use or “disorder or nuisance” are alleged based on “tenuous evidence in which hearsay evidence is admissible.” (See briefing by Release).
In February, we won a rare victory against a Closure Order. Police claimed that women in two flats in Soho encouraged anti-social behaviour. When examined in court, the police case was based on ONE third hand anonymous hearsay claim. We countered with evidence from local people who appeared in person in court and prevented women being evicted from the safety of their flats. This case exposed the shameful flimsiness of evidence commonly used to close premises.
The police expect most sex workers to be unable to come forward for fear of exposure and most magistrates to rubber stamp their action. Instead of protecting the right to a fair trial, the bill would lower the evidence threshold even further.
The new clauses would remove the need for anti-social behaviour to be proved. Where the police believe that certain offences are being committed or “will be committed” including “causing, inciting and/or controlling prostitution for gain” they can close premises and the occupants must, within 48 hours, go to court to defend the closure. Few people would even be able to get legal representation in this time. “Controlling” is already being used to criminalise women working independently, collectively and consensually especially where there is a receptionist for protection. Women will be thrown out of premises where it is 10 times safer to work than the street.
OPPOSE CLAUSE 25: Lap-dancing to be reclassified as “sex encounter establishments”.
This would increase the cost of licensing and the stigma. Lap-dancers have described working collectively with other women with good safety systems, and earning more than they would in other jobs. Is this what the government finds objectionable? (See statement below.)
OPPOSE PROCEEDS OF CRIME
Police and prosecutors have a vested interest in raiding brothels and prosecuting sex workers. This corrupting of the police has wide implications for all policing and prosecutions.
Since the Proceeds of Crime Act, raids have become profitable: the police keep 25% of any assets confiscated both at the time and from subsequent prosecutions; the Crown Prosecution Service keeps another 25%; and the Inland Revenue the rest. It is common for police to seize any money found on premises they raid. Even if no one is charged, the money is rarely returned as police take advantage of sex workers’ reluctance to go public. Women who have worked for years to put money aside lose not only their livelihood but their home, car, life savings, jewellery, etc. This theft by law enforcement is the worst form of pimping.
We believe it is a main reason why anti-prostitution raids and prosecutions are now high up on the police and government agenda. Government figures provided in response to questions by Lord Faulkner show a marked increase in prosecutions for controlling prostitution and brothel-keeping – neither offence requires force or coercion to be proved and are used primarily against women working consensually and collectively from premises.
The new clauses allow property to be seized before a person is charged where “a criminal investigation has started . . . and there is reasonable cause to believe that the alleged offender has benefited from his criminal conduct”. They also expand the definition of an “appropriate officer” to implement these powers to include for example “an accredited financial investigator”.
FACTS ON TRAFFICKING YOU SHOULD KNOW
1. Trafficking figures are flawed.
Trafficking has been used as the main justification for these proposals. But the UK charge of trafficking for prostitution, unlike trafficking for any other industry, does not require force or coercion. This enables every woman with a foreign accent to be falsely labelled a victim of trafficking! The widely used claim that “80% of women working in the sex industry in the UK have been trafficked” was recently discredited on a Radio Four programme: even if 80% of women working in brothels, saunas and massage parlours are not British, “foreign does not mean forced”.
In response to questions by John McDonnell , the Home Office has disowned these figures. And its latest estimate that 4,000 women are trafficked into the UK a year cannot be verified as the Home Office claims they come from an “internal Home Office document”.
Information that the phones at the UK Trafficking Centre are answered by immigration officers indicates that far from providing protection anti-trafficking initiatives are primary aimed at the targeting and deportation of immigrant women.
2. Victims of trafficking are not being helped.
Despite government claims about prioritising trafficking, most victims get no protection. Last week the Guardian exposed that 77 suspected child victims of trafficking went missing from a local authority care home over a period of two years. Only four children have been found and there have been no prosecutions. A surveillance operation at the home was cancelled, and despite it being known that children were disappearing more young people kept on being sent there. What does this say about the priority given to cases of trafficking where harm may be occurring that resources couldn’t be found to place two officers outside the home to stop the children disappearing? What does it say about the immigration authorities which worked hand in hand with the police and kept sending children there? These children would not be better protected with the measures in the Bill.
The Safety First Coalition agrees with the English Collective of Prostitutes that forcing prostitution further underground endangers lives. Safety First includes anti-poverty campaigners, church people & residents from Ipswich & elsewhere, the Royal College of Nursing, the National Association of Probation Officers, members of the medical & legal professions, prison reformers, sex worker & drugs rehabilitation projects. If prostitution is forced further underground women will be exposed to greater dangers and be less able to come forward to get help. See separate quotes from members of Safety First.
Government proposals claim to offer protection and safety, and “support those involved in prostitution to develop routes out”. They do not. In Scotland, since clients were criminalised in October 2007, the number of assaults on sex workers has soared. Attacks reported to one project have almost doubled from 66 in 2006 to 126 last year, including eight reported rapes and 55 violent assaults.
The Policing and Crime Bill is going through Parliament at the same time as the Welfare Reform Bill which will have a devastating impact on women and what’s left of the Welfare State. As the economic recession hits, more women, especially mothers, are likely to resort to prostitution to support their families. Together these Bills are legislating for destitution and prostitution, and therefore the criminalisation of many more women and the neglect of many more children.
 *“More Or Less”, 9 Jan http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00gdz3t/More_or_Less_09_01_2009/
ADDITIONAL SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS – NOT TABLED
AMENDMENT – Soliciting: England and Wales
Clause 18 Page 17 line 6 51A Soliciting Sub clause (1)
insert after ‘solicit another (B)’ ‘in a manner which causes B nuisance and annoyance’
Amendment would requires nuisance and annoyance to be proved and would be a protection against people being arrested purely on the word of the police.
AMENDMENT – Orders requiring attendance at meetings
Clause 16 Page 15 line 40 Subsection 3 – 1A Orders under section 1(2A): supplementary
Sub Clause (6) Insert:
‘c) provide information and advice to the offender regarding
(ii) Any cash benefits to which the offender is entitled
Sex workers are required to attend three meetings to a) address the causes of the conduct constituting the offence, and b) find ways to cease engaging in such conduct in the future.
70% of prostitute women are mothers mostly single mothers who go into prostitution to support themselves and their families. Government research found that domestic violence, homelessness, poverty and debt are the major factors suggesting “survival to be the overriding motivation” in driving women and children into prostitution and that 74% of off-street sex workers “cited the need to pay household expenses and support their children. Resources are essential to enable women to leave prostitution if they want to. Unless they are provided there is no defence against the charge that compulsory rehabilitation is purely a punitive measure aimed at criminalisation and imprisonment.
AMENDMENT Lap Dancing Licensing
Page 21 Line 20 leave out Clause 25. See arguments above
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The English Collective of Prostitutes and the Safety First Coalition can be contacted at: