Two flats raided in London’s Red Light district last December by 200 police
Officers believed sex workers were being illegally controlled for gain
However, judge has quashed closure on two flats in Brewer Street, Soho
Said there was no evidence of police claims at Isleworth Crown Court
‘We are delighted. The ruling is extremely important,’ one campaigner said
Two brothels in London’s red light district will reopen after a judge rejected police claims women working there were being ‘controlled or incited into prostitution’.
More than 200 police swooped on London’s infamous Red Light district last December, raiding around 20 flats.
Officers had raised fears that the prostitutes were being controlled for gain – which is illegal.
The raids were hugely controversial, sparking protests in the area attended by Hollywood actor Rupert Everett, who branded the raids a ‘land grab facilitated by the police’.
But in a victory for campaigners, Recorder John Kingston quashed the closure orders on two of the flats in Brewer Street.
This means the sex workers can now move back in.
Giving his ruling at Isleworth Crown Court the judge rejected police evidence the women were being controlled or incited into prostitution for gain.
He said: ‘The furthest the evidence goes is to show that the Appellants used the first and second floor flats for prostitution by arrangement with other sex workers at mutually convenient and agreed times.’
He said this ‘does not constitute control’ withing the meaning of the law.
The English Collective of Prostitutes, which has led opposition to the controversial raids, have hailed the ruling a ‘victory for common sense’.
Lori Bora who has worked at the premises for five years, said: ‘I am very pleased that justice was served.
‘The police should be ashamed of themselves to accuse us of being controlled when they know very well we are not.
‘Nobody tells me when and how long to work. To the judge I say that he is welcome to come down and see us girls in Soho at any time…for a cup of tea.’
Niki Adams, from the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) said: ‘These closures should never have come to court.
‘The police misled the public and claimed that they were needed to prevent rape and trafficking. No victims of trafficking were found; instead the police threw women out of the relative safety of their flats.
‘This decision is timely as women have been without an income since the beginning of December. Many are in debt and some were about to be made homeless.
Laura Watson, also from the ECP, said: ‘We are delighted. The ruling is extremely important because the police were saying there was some invisible figure who was organising how long the girls worked, how much they charged, and said that constituted control.
The women came to court and said that is not right. But if this is all the police need to show control they can shut down any business in the country – they wouldn’t need to show force or coercion.’
The court had heard that Soho is one of the safest places for prostitutes to work because women don’t work alone or on the streets.
Most of the women who were evicted in Soho are mothers and grandmothers – and have lived in the area for decades.
They claim they are being driven out of the area to make way for its gentrification.