Victory: Claire Finch argues that it is much safer for prostitutes to work in her home.
By ANDREW LEVY
Britain’s ‘antiquated’ vice laws were thrown into confusion yesterday when a massage parlour boss was cleared of running a brothel.
Claire Finch, 49, admitted offering topless massages ‘with happy endings’ from her bungalow and advertised in local newspapers.
Up to four women – some offering ‘other services’ – would work from her home at any time and she would take a percentage of their fees.
Despite the overwhelming evidence against her, she fought the case to highlight the need for prostitutes to have a safe environment by working in the same premises as other women.
After a four-day trial, a jury of eight men and four women supported her by taking just 90 minutes to acquit – a verdict which was greeted with cheers from a large group of supporters.
Miss Finch’s success paves the way for far greater freedom of publishing explicit material and the prosecution was ridiculed for being out of touch with changing social opinions.
After yesterday’s hearing, Miss Finch’s legal team called on Parliament to ‘clarify’ the law.
But police and the Crown Prosecution Service insisted they would continue prosecuting brothel bosses.
Mother-of-two Miss Finch said: ‘This is a victory for women who want to do this work from the safety of their houses. This has been 16 months of sheer hell for me but I have had my own “happy ending”.
‘I will do whatever I can to campaign to have the law changed. Thank goodness the jury used their common sense.’
Luton Crown Court heard Miss Finch ran the business from her home, which had a swimming pool, in the quiet Bedfordshire village of Chalton. Adverts in local papers read: ‘Relaxing body massage in village location Monday to Saturday’.
An online advert quoted an £80 fee for a full massage and services included ‘foot worship and a lot more’.
Relaxing location: Miss Finch runs her massage parlour business from this house in the quiet Bedfordshire village of Chalton
Prosecutor Samantha Cohen said: ‘A brothel is a premises where sexual services are offered by more than one person. Miss Finch works as a prostitute and has done so for many years.’
But the defendant’s barrister, Anna Morris, told the jury the law, which was drafted in 1956, was ‘antiquated’ and did not reflect modern public opinion.
She also highlighted 18 incidents of serious violence against sex workers in Bedfordshire over a four-year period.
Miss Finch described her clients as ‘very nice people’, including police officers and accountants. Asked if she allowed drugs in her home, she replied: ‘Absolutely not. Our biggest thrill is cookies.’