The English Collective of Prostitutes says a ‘moral crusade’ is under way based on the mistaken belief that sex workers are all controlled by criminal gangs
An increasing number of prostitutes who work from home, often for safety reasons, are being prosecuted, according to the organisation that represents English sex workers.
The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) says the women face up to seven years in prison if found guilty under brothel-keeping charges. It blames the trend on politicians leading a misplaced “moral crusade” against prostitution that it says is driving the industry further underground.
The collective says the case of Claire Finch, who will appear at Luton crown court tomorrow to deny charges of brothel-keeping, is a typical example of how changes in attitudes to prostitution have resulted in more sex workers being criminalised. Finch, a single mother, worked out of her home in shifts with three other women. The women, all over 40, shared expenses and are adamant it was a relationship of equals.
“My main thing was safety,” Finch said. “It’s not safe to work on your own. With two of us you had back-up, you had camaraderie.” In November 2008, 20 police officers broke down Finch’s front door and searched her house, taking £700 from her purse that she says had been put aside to pay the mortgage. Her laptop computer, mobile phone, driving licence and passport were also taken. No receipt was given.
Since she was raided, Finch has been forced to work alone. Her neighbours have no complaints about her activities and will attend court tomorrow to support her. Carrie Mitchell, of the ECP, said: “It used to be relatively rare for police to bring prosecutions for brothel-keeping but this has changed; it’s being driven by a moral crusade.”.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the police keep 25% of any assets confiscated from raids, the Crown Prosecution Service keeps another 25%, and the Inland Revenue the rest.
The ECP said this has meant that police and prosecutors have a vested interest in raiding alleged brothels. “Even if no one is charged, the money is rarely returned,” the collective stated. “Women lose not only their livelihood but their home, car, life savings, jewellery, and so on. This theft by law enforcement is the worst form of pimping.”