A Closure Order against a flat in Tisbury Court, Soho, was thrown out of court this morning. District Judge Barrie found that insufficient steps had been taken to contact the owner of the premises.
This decision is in contrast to the rulings of District Judge Susan Williams who presided over approximately ten other closure order cases against Soho flats over the last two weeks. She seemed determined to approve the closures regardless of the evidence or lack of it.
The Closure Orders came about from police raids on premises on 4 December when over 200 officers broke down doors, put women out on the street and boarded up the flats. All the other flats remain closed.
Cari Mitchell from the English Collective of Prostitutes commented:
“We were in court to witness every case where sex workers gave evidence about their situation. We saw that Judge Williams was strikingly biased in favour of the police. She disregarded evidence from sex workers who bravely came forward to explain that they worked independently and were not being controlled. We are encouraged by this victory and we strongly urge women whose flats have been closed to appeal. To deprive mothers and grandmothers of their livelihood, particularly at Christmas, is cruel and sadistic. Haven’t the police got better things to do to protect women and girls from rape and sexual assault than to target women working consensually?”
Actor Rupert Everett, who was in court for two of the cases, described the closure orders as a “land grab”. This is in reference to local concerns that the closures of sex workers’ flats aim to evict the original population of Soho to gentrify this historic area. Last week, a decision approving Soho Estates’ massive Walkers Court development was waved through by Westminster Council planning committee despite many objections, including from the Soho Society which represents most of the residents and businesses and from English Heritage.