The English Collective of Prostitutes has compiled the information below on raids, arrests and prosecutions of sex workers. These continue despite recommendations from a prestigious parliamentary committee that sex workers should be decriminalised. In July 2016, the Home Affairs Committee published the findings of its inquiry and recommended a change in the law “so that soliciting is no longer an offence” and “brothel-keeping provisions allow sex workers to share premises”. It also recommended that criminal records be expunged.
Yet these reports show that hundreds of women a year are being convicted and even imprisoned for prostitution with little protest or investigation into the consequences. And this is happening at a time when prostitution is increasing because of austerity cuts. 88-92% of sex workers are women, the majority of those mothers. What kind of government policy is it that punishes women with a criminal record for working to support their families?
The cases listed are just a snapshot. The depth of the injustice is revealed by the stories of some of the women currently going through court. A 70-year-old woman, working as a cleaner on the minimum wage in a brothel in Portsmouth is facing trial in March for brothel-keeping. She only came to police attention after she tried to save the life of a client who collapsed in the hallway of the flat where she worked.
Police crackdowns undermine safety as sex workers are forced into isolated areas, and are unable to implement vital safety measures such as screening clients. The law, which classes a flat with two or more sex workers as a brothel, forces women to work in isolation. Landlords, security guards, friends, cleaners, receptionists – virtually anyone who associates with a sex worker – can be prosecuted for “controlling” and “inciting” prostitution.
Then there is the plethora of civil orders which are used against sex workers. Criminal Behaviour Orders are given out on the basis of a mere suspicion of prostitution and Community Protection Notices are used against sex workers found in a designated area (defined by the Council). These civil orders rely on police and hearsay evidence but a breach is a criminal offence punishable with prison sentences or fines up to £2,500. When women are imprisoned, the impact if far-reaching — the lives of children are devastated for a start. Fines just force women back into prostitution to get the money to pay the fine.
How many of the arrests in the cases below are of immigrant women is not recorded but the ECP’s experience suggests that migrant women are particularly targeted, especially women with insecure immigration status.
- Southend, police continue to issue criminal behaviour orders and community protection notices against those suspected of sex work. Here
- Liverpool, two men and two women plead guilty to offences relating to prostitution. They were given variously a 32-month jail sentence, a 15-month suspended sentence, a supervision order plus 150 hours community service, and two-year community and supervision orders plus 150 hours community service. One further man was found not guilty. Here
- Birmingham, police launched an investigation into a suspected brothel, including undercover officers posing as customers. Three men and three women subsequently pleaded guilty to operating a brothel for the purposes of prostitution. Two men were given a 27-month jail sentence, and a third a 10-month suspended sentence, while the three women were given 12-month community orders. Here and here
- Stockport, a man was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and 300 hours community service after pleading guilty to running a brothel used for prostitution which he also worked out of. Here
- Prestwich, police carried out a raid on a suspected brothel. A woman was arrested on suspicion of operating a brothel, and taken into police custody. Here
- Warwick, a man and a woman were arrested following a police raid on a suspected brothel. They are being dealt with by the UK Border Agency for suspected immigration offences. Here
- Walton, a woman is on bail after being arrested on suspicion of money laundering and inciting prostitution for gain. Two other women were detained for suspected immigration offences. Here
- Redbridge, the council has published a report which recommends a crackdown on prostitution. In the past 16 months, police in Redbridge have shut down more than 50 brothels. Here
- Yeovil, a man and woman were given a 12 month suspended jail sentence, a fine and a three month curfew after earlier pleading guilty to charges of running a brothel. Here
- Norwich, police announced they intend to use a number of techniques, including automatic number plate recognition to identify kerb crawlers, to crack down on prostitution. Here
- Watford, police executed a Closure Order to shut down a property after it was alleged to have been used as a brothel. A man at the property was earlier arrested and charged with assisting in the management of a brothel, as well as a drug offence. Here
- Chesterfield, following a raid on a property, a man and a woman have been charged with an offence related to overseeing prostitution. The case has been referred from the magistrates’ court to the Derby Crown Court. Here
- Devon, after police said a premise was not classed as a brothel and thus not illegal, Exeter City Council is considering using planning laws to prevent a professional dominatrix working out of a private home. Here
- Ipswich, police and politicians announce crackdown on street sex work, and “to make it as difficult as possible for [sex workers] to continue working on the streets.” Here
- Newport, police launch a crackdown on sex work, including issuing cautions to sex workers and kerb crawlers. Police say they will carry out regular operations to crack down on kerb crawling. Here and here
- High Wycombe, the Wycombe District Council approved a plan to crack down on sex work. The new Public Spaces Protection Orders can be accompanied with up to £1,000 fines, and will target sex workers and kerb crawlers in an expanded area. Here
- London, two people were found guilty of controlling prostitution for gain, acquiring criminal property and two counts of concealing criminal property. A man was given a five year jail sentence, while a woman was given a two year suspended jail sentence. Here
- Derby, a woman was cautioned and a man pleaded guilty to soliciting for the service of a prostitute after police recognised and followed the woman known to be a sex worker. Here
- Trowbridge, a woman pleaded guilty to the charge of keeping a brothel. She has been released on conditional bail until sentencing, which the judge warned may include a custodial term. Here
- Luton, police executed a Closure Notice to shut down a suspected brothel. Here
- Ilford, a sauna and massage parlour was denied a massage licence by Redbridge Council after police asked the council to refuse the licence on the grounds that the premise had previous links with the sex industry. Here
- Hull, an injunction banning prostitution in a specified exclusion zone has been renewed. Prostitutes and kerb crawlers found to breach the order can face arrest and jail time. Here
 The Independent, 17 September, 2012. Imprisonment Separates Around 17,000 Children from their Mothers Every Year.