Action Alert: Write to demand loitering charges are dropped
POLICE SHOULD BE PROTECTING WOMEN FROM VIOLENCE NOT PROSECUTING US FOR PROSTITUTION.
On Friday 20th November 2015, Ms MP faces charges of loitering in the area of Tottenham at Highbury and Islington Magistrates Court. If convicted, she could face a fine of up to £1000, be banned from a certain area under an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO) or be forced to agree to an “Engagement and Support Order”. Fines push women back onto the streets to earn the money to pay the fine. Breach of an ASBO carries a maximum five year prison sentence. ESOs force sex workers to attend meetings to investigate the “causes of their offending behaviour”, but offer no practical resources and encourage professionals to be judgmental and punitive.
MP has been given onerous bail conditions including “not to be within 100 metres of white hart lane”, where all the shops and amenities are and “to be inside your home address between the hours of 2300 and 0400”.
What is the evidence needed to prove loitering? “Standing on a street corner looking in the direction of several men” has been enough in some cases. MP has faced charges before when the police arrested her because her friend she was with had condoms on her! The same police officer appears to be targeting MP for arrest this time. How is a woman who has worked in the past ever able to defend herself and be believed when the case relies on hearsay evidence from the police alone and is heard before magistrates who rubber stamp what the police say.
MP is a devoted mother of a four-year-old boy who stays with his grandmother in Romania. She is the primary earner for her family. If she is convicted and fined she will need to work more to pay it off with less money going to the family.
In July, loitering charges against MP were dropped at the last minute because police acted illegally and didn’t caution her. Is this case being brought as retribution?
The police have been targeting sex workers in the area, particularly migrant sex workers for arrest and even deportation. Many of the women have received ASBOs from the police to restrict them from entering Haringey. Several women have even received ASBOs that included deportation and restrictions from re-entering the UK for ten years, even though they are European citizens.
The policing of prostitution is putting sex workers’ lives at risk. Police claim to have CCTV footage of MP soliciting and plan to use it as evidence. CCTV should be used to protect sex workers from violent attack. In some areas where there is less police enforcement, women choose to work in the well-lit areas covered by CCTV because they feel safer. Violent attackers are undoubtedly deterred by the knowledge that their actions will be recorded and women’s lives could be saved as a result. In June 2014, a working woman Maria was stabbed to death on a street at the edge of Haringey/Enfield. The murderer has not been caught and there has been no justice for Maria’s brutal and untimely death. There is CCTV footage but this has not been used to assist the police investigation. A week after this murder, some girls organised an impromptu candle light vigil for Maria. The police arrived in force within minutes and were heavy handed.
The English Collective of Prostitutes and x:talk have had other reports about sex workers being threatened with a knife, and suffering sexual and verbal violence by the locals residents. Reports of violence to the police are either dismissed or the women are threatened with arrest for prostitution. An increase in attacks have come at the time of a media witch-hunt against migrants, particularly from Romania.
Finally, the police have used the condoms that sex workers carry as evidence for soliciting charges. Sex workers are therefore scared to carry condoms which undermines their efforts to practice safer sex.
DROP THE CHARGES, THIS IS NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST.
1. Support Ms MP in court: Highbury Magistrates Court, 51 Holloway Road, Islington, London N7 8JA on 20 November 2015 at 9.30am.
2. Please write urgently to protest this injustice to the addresses below. Model letter below.
To: Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions email@example.com CPS, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS
London CPS London.firstname.lastname@example.org 4th Floor, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London, SE1 9HS
David Lammy MP email@example.com, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA 020 7219 7200
Pls copy your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org (Tel: 020 7482 2496) and email@example.com
I am writing to demand the prosecution of Ms MP for loitering to be dropped.
[add something about your circumstances and why you are concerned/protesting]
The policing of prostitution in the area is putting the lives of sex workers at risk. Women are reporting incidents of threats, attacks and even murder but the police response is to arrest and ban sex workers from the area, forcing them to work more underground or in isolated areas.
Ms MP is a mother and primary earner for her whole family. The sentence for loitering is likely a fine of up to £1000, only forcing her to work more without the money going to her family and child.
This case is not in the public interest. Please drop the charges.