Update: Prosecution which undermined women’s safety dropped
We are delighted to report that charges against Ms W for “assisting in the management of a brothel” were dropped at the last minute in court on Wednesday 6 May 2009. Ms W is relieved and deeply grateful to all those who wrote in support.
The prosecution offered no case on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, overturning the Holburn CPS Reviewing Officer who had written to say that there was “sufficient evidence” and that proceeding was “in the public interest”. The decision was clearly influenced by the many letters received by the Director of Public Prosecutions objecting to the prosecution of a woman whose primary role had been to ensure other women’s safety.
Supporters, including Ms W’s daughter and friends, filled the public gallery in court. We witnessed two police officers, from Charing Cross Clubs and Vice Unit and Holburn police station, trying to browbeat the CPS prosecutor into going ahead with the case. The defence provided precedent cases, (Elliott & Kuhn v DPP and Dublidis v DPP) where Justice Taylor ruled that “some evidence of control or a say in the running of premises is essential before a court can find that a person can be found to be ‘assisting in the management’, which helped the CPS to stand firm against this pressure.
This case proves a lie to government claims made during the debates on provisions on prostitution in the Policing and Crime that “It is certainly not our intention to criminalise those involved in freely consenting transactions.”
How much public money was squandered on bringing this case to court? Recent public outrage, spearheaded by Women Against Rape, has demanded a change in police priorities which result in consenting sex being criminalised while the investigation of rape and other violence continues to be downgraded and dismissed.
In a recent case on the Guardian front page, 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 it say about policing that resources couldn’t be found to place two officers outside the home to stop the children disappearing yet 15 officers were found to raid the premises where Ms W was arrested? And what does it say about the immigration authorities which work hand in hand with the police and kept sending children there?
The Policing and Crime Bill, currently going through parliament, will push prostitution further underground and sex workers into more danger. It includes measures to throw women out of flats where we are working independently and collectively, criminalise clients engaged in consenting sex, make it easier for the police to arrest sex workers on the street, bring in compulsory “rehabilitation”, and extend powers to seize earnings and assets. The police have boasted that they will use the powers to “close up to 1,200 brothels”. Flats where women work collectively and safely will be closed, endangering the lives and livelihoods of many women. And hard won earnings seized by police and prosecutors who have a vested interest as they keep 50% of all proceeds. This corruption of ‘law and order’ will affect everyone. We must make this public and prevent it from becoming law.
The Commons Third Reading debate is scheduled for today 19 May so now is the time to contact your MP with your concerns. An action alert and the current briefing are at:https://www.prostitutescollective.net
We also want to bring to your attention the Welfare Reform Bill which is going through parliament at the same time. It is a devastating attack on women and what’s left of the Welfare State. Given the recession, it is legislating for destitution and prostitution, and therefore the criminalisation of many more women and the neglect of many more children. We are opposing it together with other organisations.
We are asking women to endorse our letter and would be glad if you can gather some signatures:http://www.globalwomenstrike.net/English/Women’sOpenLetterVs_WRB.htm
A comprehensive briefing is available at: http://www.globalwomenstrike.net/England/WRBbriefing.htm
Yours for defeating both bills,
 Letter to Lynne Jones MP, 27 March 2009