A Metropolitan police squad has come under fire in a highly critical report commissioned by the London mayor, Boris Johnson, for its investigations into sex trafficking in the run up to the Olympics.
The report accuses officers of a heavy handed approach to brothel raids and of failing to find victims of trafficking.
The report, Silence On Violence , from London assembly member Andrew Boff, is being considered by Johnson. It criticises the police performance and estimates that they have a success rate of less than 1% in finding trafficking victims
during brothel raids.
Police had predicted an increase in sex trafficking in the run up to the Olympics, but they have admitted that they have failed to find any evidence of a rise in the five Olympics host boroughs. That is despite a cash injection of
£ 500,000 from the Government Office for London to specifically target the crime.
The report provides an excellent summary and a more realistic understanding of where trafficking victims may actually be located, in more closed communities:
Policing of sex trafficking
The Olympics led to heightened media interest that trafficking and prostitution in London would rise. As a result, the Metropolitan Police Service has received additional funds to tackle sex trafficking. However, I found no strong evidence that
trafficking for sexual exploitation does in fact increase during sporting events nor that such trafficking or prostitution had increased in London. In fact my research found that a decrease in prostitution had been reported by police in London.
The data I have however reveals that raids have increased significantly overall in the Olympic host boroughs. This has not led to a large numbers of sex traffickers being caught nor victims found. This suggests that either sex trafficking is not
taking place on as large a scale as suggested or, more worryingly, that the way we are policing sex trafficking could be more effective.
Focusing on non-organised sex trafficking
While investigating the policing of sex trafficking I came across a new area of concern. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) unit which tackles sex trafficking focuses on organised crime – hence their focus on brothels . However
while brothel raids discovered largely eastern European and Asian victims, one sex trafficking referral centre told me that their largest group of victims were from West Africa. Other data I found also supported this. Some sex trafficking is not
organised and does not take place in brothels.
One trafficking charity said that many sex trafficking victims they work with had been sexually exploited by someone familiar to them within a closed community. I am concerned that not enough police resource is looking into this area and that
policing of sex trafficking too narrowly focuses on brothels. Evidence-based work needs to be done to work out where, when and how sex trafficking occurs and then police it accordingly.
Not prioritising crime against Sex workers
Sex workers feel that when they report crimes, police focus on their crimes related to sex work – such as having a brothel - over the crimes they originally reported against them. Therefore sex workers told me they feel that they
cannot safely report crime to the police. The service providers I spoke to, who work with sex workers, all said that they had noticed a decline in the number of sex workers reporting crimes to police.
The best policing model I found to tackle this lack of reporting was in Merseyside. This included labelling attacks against sex workers as hate crimes as a way of acknowledging that they were a minority who were disproportionately targeted by
criminals. It also included the police putting out a well-publicised message that crimes against sex workers would not go unpunished. This strategy was formed under the leadership of Bernard Hogan-Howe, the new MPS Commissioner.
The forthcoming London Olympics have sent the media into a feeding frenzy of scare mongering. Warning us that tens of thousands of sex slaves are under starter's orders in outlying foreign counties, ready to sprint headlong, handcuffed in
readiness, to England for the start of the games.
As a global anti-trafficking organisation, GAATW is concerned that international sporting events are being linked with increases in trafficking for prostitution, without supporting evidence.
How likely is this?
Trafficked sex workers are as hard to get your hands on in London as face value stadium tickets.
The police have spent years and 5 million quid with their specialist task force Operation Pentameter hunting for sex slaves and found hardly any. How do they expect a non-English speaking tourist with a dog-eared A to Z or an IPhone app to
So who's telling fibs and why?
This unsporting bout of statistical fakery has been created by the media and the abolitionists, including the Poppy Project and the Salvation Army. These groups would like to see an end to the commercial sex industry. By saying sex workers are
all victims of abuse or trafficking they get an outraged public onto their side of the argument to criminalise prostitutes and punters. If a story, or myth is repeated often enough and loud enough it seeps into the public psyche. People accept it
as fact and act accordingly.
Residents claim not enough men are persecuted fro kerb crawling
A law targeting Scottish kerb-crawlers has been branded a waste of time amid claims it has become impossible to enforce.
Campaigners say the amount of evidence required to secure a conviction means that the legislation is ineffective and has led to sex workers and their customers returning to the Leith Links area. Now the Leith Links Residents Association is
set to draw up a petition calling for the current legislation to be changed.
Figures show that a total of 42 men were charged under kerb-crawling laws in Edinburgh in 2010, compared with 23 in 2008 but there is no information on how many were successfully convicted.
A spokesman for the Leith Links Residents Association, which met with police and prosecutors this week to discuss the issue, said:
It was clear from what the procurator fiscal's office said that the legislation is seriously flawed. The evidence needs to be of such a high standard that it's difficult for anyone to be charged. The transaction between the kerb-crawler and the
girl either needs to be overheard by police or the girl has to shop the kerb-crawler, which makes it almost impossible.
It is not a deterrent if no one can be successfully prosecuted.
Malcolm Chisholm, Edinburgh North and Leith MSP, was at the meeting and is backing the residents' campaign. He said:
We have to explore the options for change. We could ask for a general revisiting of the law, but it may be better to come up with specific proposals.
It would seem to me that if a car is circling repeatedly and the driver stops to talk to the women, and that is witnessed by two people, then that is enough evidence.
A Scottish Government spokesprat said:
More than 200 people have been convicted under the legislation since it came into force in 2007 and we back our police and courts to continue bringing those who create the demand for street prostitution to justice.
The very useful book entitled A Guide to the Working Ladies of London is said to be at the centre of a police prostitution probe.
The book lists the contact details, specialist services, working hours and charging policies of almost 600 sex workers in the capital. The £ 10 directory has sold more than 500 copies on Amazon, according to
author George McCoy, a long time reviewer of sexual services.
However, Kit Malthouse, deputy Mayor of London with responsibility for policing, said he would ask the Met to investigate the legality of the book. He spewed:
It strikes me that reviewing human beings in the same way as a restaurants is repellent.
The thing people forget is that the world of organised prostitution is also a world of organised crime, drug dealing and abuse. Anything like this that tries to sanitise it is revolting.
[A strange comment in a city where people spend so much time watching TV talent shows where people are rated for their ability to dance, cook, sing and...whatever].
McCoy, who has also written another useful book called Guide to the Agencies, Corrective Services and Parlours of London , said he took all the measures he could to ensure those listed work of their own free will, and had no moral qualms
about his work. He said:
I think we have far too many people in this world telling us how to behave.
Obviously we want to give a good example to the youth of the country, but you should be free to do what we want as long as it's not going to harm anyone else.
A Met Police spokesman said they would consider investigating when they received information from Malthouse:
The Metropolitan Police Service's human exploitation and organised crime command responds to, and builds up, intelligence pictures in areas of the sex industry where the most harm may be done. Our primary aim is to make London a hostile
environment for traffickers and those who exploit people to operate in.
The Olympics and Trafficking: Myths and Evidence
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT
Wednesday 25 January 2012 5:45pm
Julie Ham, GAATW
Marlise Richter, International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University
Joanna Busza, LSHTM
In the lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games, concerns have been raised about the possibility of an increase in trafficking for sexual exploitation linked to the event. Similar rumours were circulated prior to other international sporting events,
including the World Cup in Germany and South Africa, the Olympics in Athens and Vancouver, and the US Super Bowl. Yet once the fans go home, the media loses interest, and little is heard about the consistent lack of evidence for any rise in sex
Recent research demonstrates that anti-trafficking measures put into place in a range of countries have proved irrelevant, or harmful in cases where sex workers become increasingly criminalised and unable to access health and social programmes.
As the 2012 Olympics come to London, this seminar will review the international evidence on trafficking, sex work and sports events, consider public health implications, and ask to what extent police and local authorities here in the UK are
basing their policies on evidence.
Admission: Free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis.
John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw has introduced a private members bill to criminalise people for paying for sex from adults aged 18 to 20. It is titled Sexual Offences (Amendment).
It was introduced to the House of Commons on 18th January 2012:
John Mann: I beg to move:
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to create an offence of paying for sexual services of a person under the age of 21 years; and for connected purposes.
In talking about this subject, I shall turn directly to the issue of drugs, on which I have frequently spoken before in the House. It is a key issue in respect of the problem the Bill addresses, and I think the Bill will have a positive impact.
Legislation has many purposes, one of which is to change people's behaviour. Many previous Governments have passed far too much criminal justice legislation that attempts to send messages and give signals to society. This Bill does not attempt to
do that; rather, it attempts to change behaviour, which is a far more effective strategy.
There are three main ways in which teenagers, both boys and girls, get drawn into prostitution; one of them is trafficking. The Bill does not deal with that topic in detail, but it has been well aired in this House in recent times. As a result,
there has been a flurry of legislation, but it needs to be used far more effectively---both the Government and the police must deliver.
This Bill's measures would not have a major impact on trafficking, and they should not be considered as an answer to that problem. Instead, they should be seen merely as a minor assist. Trafficking is, however, one way in which teenagers get
cajoled into prostitution.
Abuse and drugs are far more significant factors, however, especially with younger teenagers, and the Bill will make a greater impact in dealing with them. Those two factors---sometimes in combination---tend to lead to the dysfunctional behaviour
of 16, 17 and 18-year-olds entering the world of prostitution. Sometimes that happens through coercion and sometimes it happens through desperation, although an element of both is often involved.
I am not here to make a moral speech about prostitution.. .[BUT] ... There is an important debate to be held on the rights and wrongs of prostitution and the laws that should have an impact on it, by my Bill does not deal with that.
My Bill does one thing: it raises the threshold for the illegality of paying for sex. Of course there is a threshold, which is currently 16. Where someone is under 16, the huge consequences of the criminal law and imprisonment are involved
because of the age of consent. But the moment the victim becomes older than 16 there are no punitive powers to deal with the person who is paying. I wish to see this Bill adopted by the Government at some stage solely and simply to raise that
threshold, because by raising the threshold one raises the threshold. That may sound like a truism, but this approach will change the behaviour of those choosing to pay. The behavioural implication is there for those worried about breaching the
criminal law and risking 14 years in prison because someone could be a minor of 15 and a half years old. On that borderline, threshold behaviour changes, so I would like Parliament to change that threshold to 21. In essence, that will take all
the teenage years out of the real threshold and will change the behaviour of people who are paying. I am not making moral judgments about what people do as adults.
My Bill seeks solely and simply to raise that threshold. I think that raising the threshold will have a huge impact because the age group involved---older teenagers---must be given the space in which to turn around their lives. Our current
legislative framework makes them the victims as, in reality, the powers available to the police, even though they are often wisely and deliberately not used, are to arrest and criminalise young people, which worsens their life chances and their
chances of turning around the situation.
Explicitly changing the threshold, as well as changing the behaviour of those who are paying, will create space to allow the various agencies to work and turn around the situation for those 16, 17, 18 and 19-year-olds. That situation can then be
transformed, particularly for those who have a drug dependency or who have suffered abuse. Such input, as they develop into adults, will make a defining difference in many cases. We have all seen the kinds of people who are the victims in our
constituencies; we all know that they can be anyone and that they can be concentrated in areas where there are particular problems. The correlation to major trauma, however, and to abuse and the provision of the support and ability to impact on
those young kids---that is what those boys and girls are---are wholly missing from the process.
I propose this Bill as a small contribution that, for some of them, would have a significant impact. It would raise the threshold for those who choose to pay and remove a reasonable number of those teenagers from the industry, creating space so
the agencies who wish to work with them can do so positively and allow them to turn around their lives.
Speaker: Question put and agreed to.
Ordered, That John Mann, Fiona Mactaggart, Natascha Engel, Mrs Louise Ellman, Gavin Shuker and Siobhain McDonagh present the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 30 March and to be printed (Bill 272).
A series of gang attacks on brothels in east London has triggered calls for changes to the prostitution laws after victims who reported knifepoint robberies said they ended up being threatened with prosecution.
A police investigation has been launched as senior Labour and Conservative members of the London assembly and the English Collective of Prostitutes allege that violent crime is being given a lower priority than less serious sex offences.
What is said by sex workers to be a spate of robberies -- involving cash and jewellery -- coincides with an increase in police raids on east London addresses being used as brothels before the 2012 London Olympics.
The first address targeted was in Barking, east London, on 6 December. A video showing five men apparently breaking into another house in the area being used by sex workers is also being studied by police. The women who made the first complaint
allege they recognise some of the gang members from the YouTube clip.
In a third attack, at a different address, a woman who worked as a maid at a brothel is alleged to have been raped by the gang. None of the victims there reported the offence for fear of being charged by police with living off the proceeds of
prostitution; the police say they are so far unaware of this incident.
The ECP said changes to the law, in response to fears over the forcible trafficking of foreign sex workers into Britain, have made it more difficult for women to work together in houses for safety.
A letter of complaint sent by Niki Adams, a leading ECP activist who works with Legal Action for Women, to the borough police commander in Barking last month, said the way the investigation into the first incident had been pursued had discouraged
sex workers from reporting attacks .
In 2009, two men barged into a Woking flat with what appeared to be sawn-off shotguns. They poured petrol over the floors and furniture and threatened to torch the property. The flat itself was used by Cloud Nine, a small escort agency run by
Hanna Morris, her partner, and a female friend. Ms Morris immediately called the police. The street was cordoned off and sniffer dogs deployed. Convinced that the attackers were now on their way to one of the two other premises used by the
agency, Ms Morris provided the addresses to Surrey Police. These were later used as evidence against her. The investigation against the attackers was dropped and Ms Morris and her partner were charged with managing a brothel. They both received
12 month suspended jail sentences, were made to work a combined total of 420 hours of unpaid labour and lost their home and life savings.
Rapists and other violent men often target sex workers assuming they cannot call the police.
90% of rapists go free, the organisation Women Against Rape said afterwards. Prosecuting Hannah Morris who tried to bring two violent men to justice is perverse. Rapists and other violent men often target sex workers assuming they
cannot call the police. If sex workers are denied the protection of the law, this vulnerability is magnified. The CPS and police should prosecute rapists, not victims.
Ms Morris' solicitor, Nigel Richardson of Hodge, Jones and Allen agreed: ...it is hard to see how a prosecution in this case can do anything but make would-be attackers more confident in their actions and increase the dangers for working
women. The words in Richardson's letter to the CPS have become all the more prevalent in cases recorded since: The prosecution of this offence is likely to directly discourage the reporting of crimes against potentially vulnerable women
and thus increase risks to their safety.
ITV bosses are said to be 'infuriated' by tabloid 'revelations' about contestants.
The Mirror reports that ITV bosses feel the channel is being dragged through the mud and are demanding tighter controls over future contestants. Top level management told the show's independent production company, Talkback Thames, that
letting criminals and ex-prostitutes appear is unacceptable .
Take Me Out , hosted by Bolton comedian Paddy McGuinness, has been the subject of tabloid revelations since it recently returned for a new series.
First week winner Aaron Withers was revealed to have an assault conviction and a career as a £ 50-an-hour gigolo. Then his date, Wen-Jing Mo, admitted to previously working as a £
A senior source at the network said:
These revelations are being taken extremely seriously. It is infuriating to be learning about a different scandal every day. Letting these types of people on to what is supposed to be an early evening family show is totally unacceptable. Things
need to change -- and fast.
The ITV brand is being dragged through the mud. The experienced people who are making these shows have been left in no doubt as to the level of disappointment and dismay here.
All mention of the couple was censored from the following week's programme which would normally have shown film of the couple on their date in Cyprus.
Arresting people for brothel-keeping has never been easier nor more lucrative. In recent years, police have had a vested interest in raiding brothels because of the potential assets they can seize under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Since
Clause 21 of the PCA 2009 was introduced, police only need suspect, rather than prove, that a brothel employs trafficked or coerced workers in order to issue a brothel closure order, before seizing whatever money or goods they find,
keeping 50 per cent for the force itself. Data for the number of closure orders is not centrally collected and remains conveniently unavailable.
This is the reason that many are asking whether the police's pursuit of profit is compromising sex worker safety. In London in particular, a crackdown on prostitution prior to the Olympics is creating what the International Union of Sex Workers'
Catherine Stephens describes as a climate of fear .
She told me of how women running a brothel in a private rented property were accosted by 10-man gang: They broke into the premises one night when two of [the women] were working. One of the girls thought some of them were armed. When they went
to report the incident at the police station, the desk sergeant said, 'You do realise you're at risk of eviction if you carry on telling me what you are telling me?' He was more interested in nicking a couple of discreet sex workers for
brothel-keeping than arresting a violent, armed gang.
For every story like this, there are a dozen more. Up and down the country, incidences of violence and intimidation against sex workers now go unreported to the police. Better to risk a punch in the face than a prison sentence.
Sheila Farmer, a sex worker who worked with other women from premises for safety had charges of brothel-keeping dismissed in Croydon Crown Court. She worked with other women since being viciously raped and attacked whilst working alone.
Ms Farmer left court with over 20 supporters delighted and relieved that she no longer faces a criminal conviction and possible prison sentence. Ms Farmer suffers from severe diabetes and a malignant brain tumour. Her doctor had provided evidence
that an onerous and stressful trial would have exacerbated her condition.
Sheila Farmer commented:
Whilst I'm relieved not to be facing trial I am angry that I was prosecuted. Will the person who made that decision now be held accountable for the 18 months of distress and upset I have suffered while waiting for this case
to come to court? Safety and survival has always been my priority. Like hundreds of other women I was working to support my son and more recently to pay for cancer treatment. I would never have got through this ordeal without the English
Collective of Prostitutes. Without campaigning we may not have got this result.
Cari Mitchell, English Collective of Prostitutes commented:
Sheila Farmer's bravery in publicly fighting these charges should be commended. She, like many other sex workers, should never have been forced to choose between safety and legality. Why is it legal to work alone but not with others? The
prostitution laws are endangering women and should be abolished. Why are police wasting time and money prosecuting sex workers while rapists and racists go free?
Ms Farmer's trial was thrown out because of police and prosecution incompetence -- witnesses had not been asked to attend court and a key witness could not be found. Ms Farmer has attended court six times and the case has been listed to start on
two previous occasions.
How much public money has been squandered on this investigation and prosecution? How many other investigations are being neglected as a result?
The conviction of two of Stephen Lawrence's murderers reminds us once again that the priorities of police and prosecution fly in the face of public opinion. Why did it take 18 years to try and convict these dangerous criminals while sex workers
who do no harm are quickly arrested and jailed? The ECP has received multiple reports of violent robberies by a gang of five men in East London. The only police action has been to threaten the victims with prosecution. Why are women who report
violence arrested while their attackers are not pursued?
Ms Farmer's legal team requested figures on the number of attacks against sex workers to demonstrate the high level of violence they face when working alone and the need for protection. The Metropolitan police said that no such figures are
gathered. Why not? How can prostitution law and policy be assessed if their impact on sex workers' safety and welfare is not known?
Ms Farmer was represented by solicitor Nigel Richardson, Hodge, Jones and Allen and barrister Anna Morris, Garden Court Chambers. Supporters in court included representatives from Women Against Rape, the Sex Worker Open University and X:talk.
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