Please join sex workers and supporters 9.30 – 10.30am Wednesday 12 June, Stratford Magistrates Court 389-397 High St, London, Greater London E15 4SB
WE ARE NOT ANTI-SOCIAL
Ms CH is appearing in court today charged with breaching an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO). The 26-year ASBO bans Ms CH from an area where she lives, has friends and goes to support services. Ms CH was not loitering at the time. She was waiting for a taxi near her home when she was arrested. If she is found guilty Ms CH could be sent to prison.
Ms CH is the devoted mother of a three-year-old boy. She has just been offered permanent accommodation near to where her son currently lives. If she is separated from him by imprisonment it will have with lifelong implications for the whole family. The offer of the new permanent accommodation would be withdrawn and Ms CH would be left homeless driving her back onto the street.
Ms CH is also a victim of rape and other violence. She describes being attacked countless times while working. Ms CH has only reported one attack to the police — she felt compelled to do so because her injuries were so severe and she feared that the man would attack other women.
Why was an ASBO imposed on a vulnerable woman like Ms CH? ASBOs rely on hearsay and police evidence alone which means that Ms CH can be targeted by the police at any time, regardless of whether she is working at the time. No complaints or evidence of nuisance are needed and magistrates generally rubber-stamp unsubstantiated police claims. Like with anti-terror laws, ASBOs have spawned a parallel legal system where the normal rules of evidence do not apply.
Sex workers are frequently given ASBOs instead of being charged with loitering and soliciting. ASBOs are civil orders but breaching them is a criminal offence, which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence. This is a much heavier sentence than for loitering and soliciting and contravenes the principle that the penalty for breaching an ASBO should not be significantly higher than the original offence.
English Collective of Prostitutes, 020 7482 2496/ 07811 964 171