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MikeThePlayer

"Prostitutes in legal victory to keep working"

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From the London Informer:

http://www.londoninformer.co.uk/london-news/london-local-news/2009/05/22/prostitutes-in-legal-victory-to-keep-working-113489-23684010/

Prostitutes in legal victory to keep working

May 22 2009 By Aidan Jones, London Informer

THE working girls of Mayfair have defeated an attempt by Westminster Council to close their businesses, by using planning laws against the Town Hall.

Vice police raided several flats in Shepherd Market, near Green Park, which have for decades been used for prostitution and reported them to the council's planning department.

The council then sent letters to eight prostitutes announcing an investigation into a 'change of use from residential accommodation' - a breach of planning law.

But this week it was forced into a climbdown, closing the investigation after the women proved they had been working out of the addresses for more than 10 years.

"The women have been working here safely for more than a decade, which means they haven't 'changed use' of the properties," said Nicki Adams, of the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP).

"The woman are a welcome part of the community here and should be allowed to run their businesses without hassle from the police or council.

"Our priority is their safety and that should be the main consideration of the council and police. Instead, they seem intent on trying to close them down."

The council letter to Shepherd Market's working ladies follows on from closure orders issued to brothels across the borough.

In February, Met police closed a longstanding brothel in Dean Street, Soho, only to have the decision overturned by magistrates.

The ECP has been campaigning against the closure of the estimated 60-100 flats used by prostitutes across the borough.

It says women will be forced on to the streets where they will face increased dangers.

The campaign has gathered pace in the wake of the Home Office review of the laws governing prostitution.

The new Policing and Crime Bill, currently passing through Parliament, aims to curb sex trafficking and protect women from being coerced into the sex trade.

But opponents say it criminalises men paying for consensual sex with a prostitute and women who employ maids or other workers to help them - damaging their business and forcing them to take greater risks.

Rosemarie MacQueen, the council's strategic director for built environment, said: "We have strict planning policies to prevent homes being used primarily for business due to the detrimental impact this would have on local communities.

"The nature of the business is completely irrelevant, the role of this policy is to safeguard residential areas. This is particularly important in Westminster due to the large demand for commercial property, which could very quickly price out residents and change the character of the city forever.

"Sadly, in cases where a business is able to prove that they have been operating from a certain address for over a decade, our powers to enforce are much reduced."

MEGAN, a London prostitute for 25 years, has worked out of a Shepherd Market flat for 15 years:

"It's a little village here and we couldn't work in a better place.Over the years we have had a great relationship with the police.Whenever they need help tracing a girl who has gone missing they come up and ask our help, because we are open and know everybody. The eight girls here in the flats have all been working for a long time.I don't know why suddenly we have become the enemy.

"The community supports us and perhaps the council did not realise that when they started sending threatening letters out.

"This is a tough industry and the Government and local council are making it tougher for us to work in the safety of

our flats. I know there are problems with sex trafficking and young girls being forced to work as prostitutes. It's terrible and must be stopped, but it's not because of us.

"Just because we have a flat we are easy targets for the authorities. It's a hard time for us, the recession is hitting our clients and the new laws are making them scared to come to us - even if they've been with us for years. If the police carry on raiding us, we will lose customers and then be forced on to the streets. We will then be in the same danger as the women the police say they want to protect. It doesn't make sense.

"But we will stand firm and fight any attempts to close us down. This is the oldest business in the world and we're not going anywhere."

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brilliant!

its great when the authorities find out they can't just persecute women because they work as prostitutes.

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'Scare tactics' by the local council. Not dissimilar to those currently being employed by the Government to curb prostitution.

Briefly, to my knowledge, the law (Planning Act), grants immunity from Enforcement Action, if it can be proven (on the balance of probability), that that use specified has existed continuously for a period in excess of 10 years. That is all, it does not result in the use specified becoming a lawful one.

Consequently, it generally follows that the next step is that of making an application to the planning authority for a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use (whatever that may be,- see below). Here the onus of proof is upon the applicant.

However, it could be questionable if the use of a flat or house by a single prostitute, provided that it is her residence, amounts to a 'Change of Use' requiring planning permission.

Certainly, it's unlikely that it would constitute a 'development (physical) change of use', i.e the physical characteristics of use by a prostitute remove it from functioning as a dwelling. Whether or not a 'material change of use' has occurred is a matter of 'fact and degree'. The principle of 'Working from Home' could well apply, provided that the business use was limited to say, a bedroom. Chances are that it would be held that it's no different in principle to using a room at a dwelling as an office to run a business, which does not generally constitute a 'change of use' from the established lawful use,- a 'dwelling'. The reference to a 10 year period,- immunity from prosecution after the expiry of 10 years, is quite probably irrelevant; and designed to put fear into prostitutes that have not used a portion of their homes for in excess of 10 years for purposes connected with their trade.

I hope that prostitutes faced with similar tactics from councils will engage a good planning lawyer, who quite possibly, could effectively 'knock this on the head' immediately.

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So, say an independent offers incalls from her home, but doesn't actually make or need to make any changes to the living accomodation and invites her clients as guests into that dwelling - the change of use wouldn't apply - since she is still living there?Simply working from home.

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So, say an independent offers incalls from her home, but doesn't actually make or need to make any changes to the living accomodation and invites her clients as guests into that dwelling - the change of use wouldn't apply - since she is still living there?Simply working from home.

That's the likelihood; provided that the vast majority of the time she limited her trade to one room. But the clients are not 'guests',- they are clients, as with any business; remember prostitution is classified as a 'trade'. Think of it as 'working from home'. Extending a common courtesy, such as having a coffee elsewhere in her home or similar would be acceptable, so long as it does not stray from what would normally occur with anyone running a business from home and seeing clients there. The criteria is that the business use does not 'swamp' the domestic use as a home.

In the event of the council taking an interest in you trade, emphasise that only one room is used for 'trade'. If it's the only bedroom, then it's 'occasional' trade use. That's a laugh!

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A Ps; planning legistation is not and should not be concerned with 'morality' issues. This has been confirmed by case law; i.e. the granting of planning permission for the use of premises as a 'massage parlour'. The permission was however 'conditioned' by the requirement for sound proofing!

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