In August 2009, a woman who was working on her own from home in Tyne and Wear was charged with the archaic offences of “running a disorderly house” and “running a bawdy house under common law”. She believed she was targeted by police because she had previously reported a serious racist attack by a neighbour (which included calling her a “wog”, throwing faeces at her house and smashing her car window) and had complained when the police took no action.
During her arrest, the woman suffered the humiliation of being made to change her clothes in the presence of male police officers. During interrogation, officers made disparaging comments saying why didn’t she “get a job in Primark” and tried to imply that she was a morally corrupting influence by saying that “children were in the area”. As a dedicated and caring mother of a severely disabled child, the woman was particularly upset by this. She was later reported to social services, her son’s disability benefits were cut and she was charged with child neglect. The racist neighbour was never pursued.
Black Women’s Rape Action Project campaigned with the ECP and after three years all charges against her were dropped and her benefits reinstated.