Today in Luton Crown Court Claire Finch was found not guilty of a criminal charge of keeping a brothel. The jury, in line with public opinion, refused to criminalise Ms Finch for working together with friends from her own home for safety.
This malicious prosecution was motivated by a moral crusade and financial incentives for the police. Since Proceeds of Crime legislation was introduced, police are able to keep any money resulting from raids.
This not guilty verdict greatly strengthens the case for prostitution to be decriminalised so that women are able to work more safely together as in New Zealand.
SUPPORT CLAIRE FINCH – SUPPORT SEX WORKERS’ RIGHT TO SAFETY
Ms Claire Finch is facing brothel keeping charges and a prison sentence because she prioritised safety by working with friends at her home.
Ms Finch is appearing at Luton Crown Court, 9.30, Monday 26 April
This is a key case; if Ms Finch is convicted, other prosecutions of women working collectively in the relative safety of premises will follow, driving women to work in isolation. Attacks are sure to increase.
Please write in protest to:
The case is running from Monday 26 to Thursday 29 April. We want to show just how much support there is for Ms Finch and are asking people to attend court. Can you come along for one or more days or even part of a day? Please let us know.
This prosecution is part of a moral crusade which is driving the sex industry underground and women into more danger. It is not in the public interest.
Ms Finch says: “My main thing is safety. It’s not safe to work on your own. With two of us you had back up, you had camaraderie.”
In order to ensure safety, Ms Finch worked in shifts with three other women. There was never a time when one woman was left on her own. Since she was raided Ms Finch has been forced to work alone.
On 19 November 2008, 20 uniformed police officers from Kempston Economic Crime Unit, kicked in Ms Finch’s front door and searched every room in the house including Ms Finch’s personal belongings, taking over £700 from her purse that had been put aside to pay the mortgage. Her laptop computer, mobile phone, driving licence and passport were also taken. No receipt was given.
Brothel-keeping charges were introduced in 1956. Since Proceeds of Crime legislation (reinforced by the Policing and Crime Act), raids and prosecutions against women working from premises have escalated. Police and prosecutors have a vested interest: the police keep 25% of any assets confiscated both at the time and from subsequent prosecutions (50% in some areas); the Crown Prosecution Service keeps another 25%; and the Inland Revenue the rest. Even if no one is charged, the money is rarely returned. 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.
The CPS is supposed to bear in mind public interest considerations when considering charges. Ms Finch’s situation contradicts every one of them.
Public interest considerations for brothel keeping charges are:
To encourage prostitutes to find routes out of prostitution and to deter those who create the demand for it
A criminal conviction is the biggest obstacle to leaving prostitution.
To keep prostitutes off the street to prevent annoyance to members of the public
Ms Finch’s neighbours have no complaints and are coming to court to support her. Closing down premises drives women onto the street where it is ten times more dangerous to work.
To prevent people leading or forcing others into prostitution
All the women were working consensually and independently. There was no force, coercion, violence or trafficking.
To penalise those who organise prostitutes and make a living from their earnings.
There was no profiteering. Everyone worked collectively and shared expenses.
Generally, the more serious the incident, the more likely a prosecution will be required
While time and money are going into prosecuting Ms Finch, the investigation of rape and other violence continues to be downgraded. Public opinion opposes women being criminalised for working collectively and consensually.
The age of the prostitute and the position of those living off the earnings will be relevant All the women working with Ms Finch were over forty, mature women able “to make their own minds up. They’re not being hoodwinked.” Ms Finch has said that as a mother, working with inexperienced younger women “would not sit morally well with me.”
For working collectively in a safe non-exploitative way, Ms Finch faces losing her home and a prison sentence of up to seven years. The laws which allow such prosecutions must be abolished and prostitution must be decriminalised. Safety comes first.
English Collective of Prostitutes
020 7482 2496