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Press release from the English Collective of Prostitutes

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PRESS RELEASE: Prostitution Clauses POLICING AND CRIME BILL 2009

By the English Collective of Prostitutes Co-ordinators of the SAFETY FIRST COALITION

House of Lords, Thursday 5 November 2009

Prostitution clauses in the Policing and Crime Bill come back to the Lords today.

CLAUSE 14: An offence of "Paying for sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force etc." was passed on Tuesday, when an amendment by Baroness Miller which would have removed the strict liability aspect of the offence, was defeated.

No serious consideration was given to the way in which it a) establishes a two-tier offence so that having sex with a woman in the sex industry who is forced will attract a much lesser sentence (a fine) than the existing offence of rape or sexual assault.) See Women Against Rape's statement: http://www.womenagainstrape.net) ;) deprives the client of all legal defence as the offence is committed regardless of whether he "is, or ought to be, aware that any of [the sex worker's] activities are controlled for gain" and undermines a fundamental principle of the law that "intention" is needed to prove guilt. Like with ASBOs where hearsay evidence was allowed to become commonplace, prostitution is being used to undermine fundamental rights, no doubt with dangerous consequences.

The public consistently demonstrates its concern that sex workers' are protected from violence, most noticeably in the aftermath of the Ipswich murders but also in the last few days where a poll found that 2/3 of people agreed that sex workers should be allowed to work together for safety. In contrast the government's spokesperson Baroness Scotland described sex workers as 'damaged goods'; showing what they think of us -- first of all as 'goods' and then as 'damaged'.

CLAUSE 21: Extending closure orders to brothels.

Closure Orders are already being brought against premises where drug use or "disorder or nuisance" are alleged based on "tenuous evidence in which hearsay evidence is admissible." (See briefing by Release).

In February, we won a rare victory against a Closure Order. Police claimed that women in two flats in Soho encouraged anti-social behaviour. When examined in court, the police case was based on ONE third hand anonymous hearsay claim. We countered with evidence from local people who appeared in person in court and prevented women being evicted from the safety of their flats. This case exposed the shameful flimsiness of evidence commonly used to close premises. http://www.prostitutescollective.net/soho_raids_evening_standard_feb18.htm

The police expect most sex workers to be unable to come forward for fear of exposure and most magistrates to rubber stamp their action. Instead of protecting the right to a fair trial, the Bill would lower the evidence threshold even further.

The new clauses would remove the need for anti-social behaviour to be proved. Where the police believe that certain offences are being committed or "will be committed" including "causing, inciting and/or controlling prostitution for gain" they can close premises and the occupants must, within 48 hours, go to court to defend the closure. Few people would even be able to get legal representation in this time. "Controlling" is already being used to criminalise women working independently, collectively and consensually especially where there is a receptionist for protection. Women will be thrown out of premises where it is 10 times safer to work than the street.

PROCEEDS OF CRIME

Police and prosecutors have a vested interest in raiding brothels and prosecuting sex workers. This corrupting of the police has wide implications for all policing and prosecutions.

Since the Proceeds of Crime Act, raids have become profitable: the police keep 25% of any assets confiscated both at the time and from subsequent prosecutions (50% of any cash found on the premises); the Crown Prosecution Service keeps another 25%; and the Inland Revenue the rest. We have reported to the police and CPS that it has become common for police to seize any money found on premises they raid, even if no one is charged. The money is rarely returned as police take advantage of sex workers' reluctance to go public. Women who have worked for years to put money aside lose not only their livelihood but their home, car, life savings, jewellery, etc. This theft by law enforcement is the worst form of pimping.

We believe it is a main reason why anti-prostitution raids and prosecutions are now high up on the police and government agenda. Government figures provided in response to questions by Lord Faulkner show a marked increase in prosecutions for controlling prostitution and brothel-keeping - neither offence requires force or coercion to be proved and are used primarily against women working consensually and collectively from premises.

The new clauses allow property to be seized before a person is charged where "a criminal investigation has started . . . and there is reasonable cause to believe that the alleged offender has benefited from his criminal conduct". They also expand the definition of an "appropriate officer" to implement these powers to include for example "an accredited financial investigator".

more here:

http://www.prostitutescollective.net/PCB_Press_Rel_2_Nov_09.htm

(the 3rd reading is 11 November)

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PRESS RELEASE: Prostitution Clauses POLICING AND CRIME BILL 2009

By the English Collective of Prostitutes Co-ordinators of the SAFETY FIRST COALITION

House of Lords, Thursday 5 November 2009

Prostitution clauses in the Policing and Crime Bill come back to the Lords today.

CLAUSE 14: An offence of “Paying for sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force etc.” was passed on Tuesday, when an amendment by Baroness Miller which would have removed the strict liability aspect of the offence, was defeated.

No serious consideration was given to the way in which it a) establishes a two-tier offence so that having sex with a woman in the sex industry who is forced will attract a much lesser sentence (a fine) than the existing offence of rape or sexual assault.) See Women Against Rape’s statement: http://www.womenagainstrape.net) :eek: deprives the client of all legal defence as the offence is committed regardless of whether he “is, or ought to be, aware that any of [the sex worker’s] activities are controlled for gain” and undermines a fundamental principle of the law that “intention” is needed to prove guilt. Like with ASBOs where hearsay evidence was allowed to become commonplace, prostitution is being used to undermine fundamental rights, no doubt with dangerous consequences.

The public consistently demonstrates its concern that sex workers’ are protected from violence, most noticeably in the aftermath of the Ipswich murders but also in the last few days where a poll found that 2/3 of people agreed that sex workers should be allowed to work together for safety. In contrast the government’s spokesperson Baroness Scotland described sex workers as ‘damaged goods’; showing what they think of us -- first of all as ‘goods’ and then as ‘damaged’.

CLAUSE 21: Extending closure orders to brothels.

Closure Orders are already being brought against premises where drug use or “disorder or nuisance” are alleged based on “tenuous evidence in which hearsay evidence is admissible.” (See briefing by Release).

In February, we won a rare victory against a Closure Order. Police claimed that women in two flats in Soho encouraged anti-social behaviour. When examined in court, the police case was based on ONE third hand anonymous hearsay claim. We countered with evidence from local people who appeared in person in court and prevented women being evicted from the safety of their flats. This case exposed the shameful flimsiness of evidence commonly used to close premises. http://www.prostitutescollective.net/soho_raids_evening_standard_feb18.htm

The police expect most sex workers to be unable to come forward for fear of exposure and most magistrates to rubber stamp their action. Instead of protecting the right to a fair trial, the Bill would lower the evidence threshold even further.

The new clauses would remove the need for anti-social behaviour to be proved. Where the police believe that certain offences are being committed or “will be committed” including “causing, inciting and/or controlling prostitution for gain” they can close premises and the occupants must, within 48 hours, go to court to defend the closure. Few people would even be able to get legal representation in this time. “Controlling” is already being used to criminalise women working independently, collectively and consensually especially where there is a receptionist for protection. Women will be thrown out of premises where it is 10 times safer to work than the street.

PROCEEDS OF CRIME

Police and prosecutors have a vested interest in raiding brothels and prosecuting sex workers. This corrupting of the police has wide implications for all policing and prosecutions.

Since the Proceeds of Crime Act, raids have become profitable: the police keep 25% of any assets confiscated both at the time and from subsequent prosecutions (50% of any cash found on the premises); the Crown Prosecution Service keeps another 25%; and the Inland Revenue the rest. We have reported to the police and CPS that it has become common for police to seize any money found on premises they raid, even if no one is charged. The money is rarely returned as police take advantage of sex workers’ reluctance to go public. Women who have worked for years to put money aside lose not only their livelihood but their home, car, life savings, jewellery, etc. This theft by law enforcement is the worst form of pimping.

We believe it is a main reason why anti-prostitution raids and prosecutions are now high up on the police and government agenda. Government figures provided in response to questions by Lord Faulkner show a marked increase in prosecutions for controlling prostitution and brothel-keeping – neither offence requires force or coercion to be proved and are used primarily against women working consensually and collectively from premises.

The new clauses allow property to be seized before a person is charged where “a criminal investigation has started . . . and there is reasonable cause to believe that the alleged offender has benefited from his criminal conduct”. They also expand the definition of an “appropriate officer” to implement these powers to include for example “an accredited financial investigator”.

more here:

http://www.prostitutescollective.net/PCB_Press_Rel_2_Nov_09.htm

(the 3rd reading is 11 November)

Clause 14 will be killed off by case law imho. That's if they ever arrest a client under it.

It could be argued arrest and conviction under the clause is arbitrary. You have no reasonable chance of avoiding commision of the offence. Avoiding prostitutes altogether is unreasonable as it's prefectly legal. You can't ask the woman since, as a result of the force applied by another party, whose identity and existance you're unaware of, she's certain to say she's fine.

The offence itself is almost identical to rape. If it could be proven you knew of the woman's predicament then rape or sexual assault would be the appropriate charge. So this offence is actually designed solely to prosecute people who are unaware of their offending, or at least where there is no evidence that they knew. This is unique and contrary to natural justice.

Whilst other offences carrying strict liability exist they are not used exclusively with strict liability.

If your drink is spiked and you're caught driving over the limit it's tough luck. However this is rare and the majority of people caught drink driving know full well they're drunk or at least that it's likely they're over the limit. If someone spikes your drink there's at least a chance of being able to taste the alcohol or feel its effects if it's sufficient to take you over the limit. In any case, as I said, that would be an unusual event.

The same goes for all other strict liability offences. The possibility exists of a person being prosecuted who genuinely didn't know they'd done the illegal act, but the majority do know or should know. Ignorance is not the raison d'etre for those offences. There is always something that a person can do to reduce their risk of offending to almost nil.

You could even argue, on the evidence above, that clause 14 denies punters their right to equal protection under the law. You are, by legally purchasing sex, running the unavoidable risk of breaking the law. There is no methodology you can employ to ensure you're not commiting an offence. Avoiding foreign women would reduce the risk quite a bit - but again this is unreaonable as foreign women are perfectly entitled to work as prostitutes. In any case who's to say that a British woman isn't being forced or coerced?

It's almost certainly doomed to be embarrasingly defeated in the courts.

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