In September 2019, two Brazilian women, Ms O and Ms R, were working together in a flat for safety when they were raided by the police. The police confiscated their phones, ID, and money totaling around £1000 (without leaving a receipt). They were initially charged with brothel-keeping.
The ECP organised informal translation from a woman at the Crossroads Women’s Centre where it is based, informed the two women of their rights, found legal representation and told them that there was a strong feeling among the public that women working together for safety shouldn’t be criminalised. This was important because it helped the women to know that if they decided to plead not guilty and fight the case they would get support and have access to the ECP’s legal and campaigning expertise
The ECP attended court with the two women and they decided to plead not guilty. The CPS then reduced the charge to tenants “permitting premises to be used for prostitution” despite evidence that neither women were a tenant with any power to permit others to work.
An ECP Action Alert resulted in hundreds of people writing to demand that the Crown Prosecution Service drop the case.
A few days before the women were due to appear in the magistrates court for their hearing, they were informed that the prosecution was offering a caution on the condition they write over the money seized on their arrest.” The ECP told women they have a right to refuse a caution and that a caution requires an admission of guilt, so goes on your record in a comparable way to a conviction.
The offer of a caution may have been an attempt at a ‘compromise’ by the CPS considering the pressure they were under from the public campaign but it appeared to many as a blatant example of state profiteering.
On the day of the hearing, one of the women, Ms O, decided to accept the caution, because of worries about the impact on her application for settled status in the UK. The other woman, Ms R, had a more stable immigration status and decided to plead ‘not guilty’ and fight her case .
The court hearing was delayed almost two hours. Just before it began, Ms O left with a woman from the ECP, to go to the police station to accept her caution. Almost as soon as Ms R and her supporters sat down in court, the prosecution announced their intention to withdraw the charges against both women. Ms O was immediately contacted and had thankfully not yet accepted the caution.
Victory For Sex Workers Taken To Court For Keeping Each Other Safe (Huffington Post, 10 January 2020)