The granddaughters of the porn baron Paul Raymond are leading a plan to reopen the Soho cabaret club Madame Jojo's. The Soho venue has been shut since 2014 when it closed after half a century in business.
Residents and the Soho Society responded with
the usual miserablist nonsense about late night revelling.
In December the club had its licence approved by Westminster city council, with the application stating that some performances may contain nudity, including burlesque style.
Researchers from the University of Kent and Middlesex University have said that Soho is under threat from gentrification and corporatisation that threatens to rob it of what makes it so special.
Their study explains how the area is being sanitised
with the number of licensed sex shops in the area declining from more than 50 to just 12. These are slowly being concentrated in just a small area and almost all such venues in Soho are now located within a small half-a-mile block.
The process of
gentrification in this area has further marginalised already vulnerable groups (including homeless populations and sex workers) and the sanitisation of the area means that many populations who have lived and worked in this area for generations will no
longer be able to part of the Soho community.
A new push to save one of London's most famous nightclubs, Madame Jojo's, from closure was made on Thursday when Westminster's Labour councillors called for new management to be allowed to take over the Soho venue.
The council revoked its licence last
month following an incident outside the club in October when its bouncers allegedly attacked a customer with baseball bats. The manager and security staff were replaced with workers approved by Westminster, but the council still decided to withdraw the
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the council's Labour group, described the incident in which the customer was attacked as appalling but said that should not be used to justify the remorseless process of Soho gentrification .
Madame Jojo's is a Soho icon and these premises should not be turned into yet another chain restaurant. We support the reopening of the premises under the same licensing terms should another responsible owner
wish to take over.
Westminster council should not let Madame Jojo's die, but should do all it can to keep this unique Soho venue living on under new management.
The calls to save the club may fall on deaf ears
given that almost a year ago the council approved plans submitted by Soho Estates , the company founded by Raymond, to redevelop the buildings around Walker's Court and Brewer Street in the next few years.
Westminster Council's decision to close down Madame Jojo's has shone a light on their far more cynical plans to demolish a large area of Soho, and turn it into a Disney-Style Westfield-esque centre. By Lliana Bird
Westminster Council has revoked the licence of the famous Soho drag show bar, Madame JoJo's. The action is a response to a violent assault inflicted by the club's bouncers wielding baseball bats.
The incident that prompted the council to close the
venue took place on 24 October, when its bouncers became involved in a dispute with a customer. The police report says members of the security team and their taxi operator violently assaulted the man after a verbal altercation. The man initially left,
but returned and threw bottles at the bouncers and members of the public. The bouncers responded by attacking him with baseball bats. The police report concluded with a call to suspend the venue's license pending full revocation.
subsequently changed its manager and bouncers for a team approved by the council, but it was not enough to save its license.
Marcus Harris, who co-ran the now infamous White Heat night at the venue, said it was the first time in his decade at
Madame Jojo's that anything violent had happened,l. He believes the speedy decision to close the venue permanently was indicative of the council's negative attitude toward the few older, late-license venues that still remain in the heart of Soho, an area
now in the clutches of gentrification .
In my opinion, it seems that the council just used the incident as a good excuse to take away the license, he said. It's one of the few places left round there which has a
3am license, seven nights a week. If you look at the way the area is changing, they clearly don't want a late night drinking presence anywhere in Soho anymore. They want to make Soho about families - shopping, going out to eat, going to the theatre. The
bars shut at 11 and you're home by midnight.
It has emerged that the fate of legendary club Madame Jojo's had already been decided many months before Westminster council revoked its licence this week after a violent incident - in a move that was condemned by many as draconian.
submitted to Westminster council in September 2013 by Soho Estates, which owns the premises, show the venue was already among the buildings intended to be demolished and redeveloped in Soho's Walker's Court and Brewer Street in the next few years. In
December last year the plans were approved by the council.
Westminster council stands by its statement that the club's licence was revoked solely due to an incident at the club, in which security staff assaulted a member of public with baseball
Soho sex workers have returned to their flat this week after a judge overturned the police's attempts to board it up. The walk-up flat in Tisbury Court was one of around 20 that police attempted to close following a series of high-profile raids in
But the flat reopened for business on Friday and one 35-year-old, who has been working in Soho for more than six years, told the West End Extra:
It was a waste of time. At the end of the day I'm a
working girl and I've done nothing wrong, but we were arrested and it's not right. I'm happy I'm back to Tisbury Court because now I can earn money. I don't want to go to work in the street and get killed.
Several other flats were set
to reopen this week after closure orders obtained by police expired and were not renewed. The English Collective of Prostitutes, who campaign for sex workers' rights, said the brunt of the operation had been borne by women who had not broken
Niki Adams of the ECP asked:
Three months later most of the flats are reopening. What exactly has been achieved by these closures? Over 20 women were left without any income and have become
increasingly desperate. Some women lost their housing because they couldn't pay their rent, others ended up on the streets. Thousands of pounds were paid in legal fees to challenge the closure orders. We expect that the police will apologise, acknowledge
the damage caused by their operation, and give assurances that this will never happen again.
A parish priest in London's Soho has claimed that the behaviour of police during raids on local brothels was unacceptable and at times unlawful .
The Rev Simon Buckley, of St Anne's rectory in Soho, has sent a report to the bishop of London and
senior Metropolitan police officers airing his disquiet at an operation to clear out Soho's brothels.
Buckley highlighted concerns from sex workers that, despite police assurances that their welfare was paramount, the mass closure would push sex
workers on to the streets, where they are more vulnerable to abuse, attack and rape .
During Operation Companion, 18 brothels were closed in raids involving 250 officers, many in riot gear, accompanied by dog units. The raids followed an
undercover operation said to have linked the brothels to abuse and human trafficking. Commander Alison Newcomb, who is in charge of policing in Westminster, has justified targeting the flats, saying it was important to close brothels where we have
evidence of very serious crimes happening, including rape and human trafficking .
However, no trafficking victims were found in the operation, and a letter from Newcomb, dated 27 January and seen by the Observer , reveals that no specific
number of women were suspected of being trafficked . In his report Buckley writes: There is a clear reversal of the rationale that we [community leaders] were given on the night of the operation. He also claims he has received testimony from
sex workers that at least one woman was forced into the street in only her underwear during the raids; that photographs of women appeared in the media because press photographers were invited on the operation; and that some women were threatened by
police that their children or parents would be told they were working as prostitutes.
Two sex workers lost their legal battle against Scotland Yard after pointing out that the mass closure of brothels in the heart of London's red-light district put them at greater risk of attack.
Eighteen brothels were closed down after raids following
an undercover operation that was claimed to have revealed links to crimes including trafficking and rape. But at least six sex workers have fought the closures, claiming they had not been coerced into working and that closing the brothels would make
their work more unsafe.
In the first of three appeals being heard over two weeks, two women lost their battle to have their flats reopened after a judge found that unknown figures were controlling prostitution in the area. The judge, Judy
Khan QC, cited the bizarre payments of daily rent left in a microwave, and a shift system in operation.
However, activists claim that Soho is one of the safest places for prostitutes to work as the flats are covered by CCTV and they work
with maids who try to monitor customers. They warned that the raids made it more likely that women would find work on their own, either in flats or on the streets, where their lives were more at risk.
In a report sent to the Bishop of
London over the weekend, the Reverend Simon Buckley wrote that trust in the police had been severely undermined by the seemingly ham-fisted nature of the operation:
The girls who continue to work in the unclosed
flats say that they would not feel confident in turning to the police if they were a victim of crime. Those who previously worked in the relative safety of the flats, and until 18 months ago had a good rapport with the police, are now forced to explore
other means of supporting themselves. I am told this is most likely by working on streets outside Soho where they are far more vulnerable to abuse, attack and rape.
Two sex workers have claimed victory against Scotland Yard after they overturned a decision to shut down their flats after early morning police raids in
The flats had been shut for a minimum of three months after police claimed that the women working there were being controlled, or incited to commit prostitution. It was one of 18 addresses targeted by the police. However, the women said they
were working of their own free will and it was safer to work where there was CCTV cameras in the building and where maids helped to vet customers. The women warned they would be at greater risk from harm if they had to work elsewhere or pick up trade on
In the latest of several such appeals, a judge said the two women used the flats by arrangement with other sex workers at mutually convenient and agreed times. That does not constitute control.
Niki Adams, of the English
Collective of Prostitutes, said:
These closures should never have come to court. The police misled the public and claimed that they were needed to prevent rape and trafficking. No victims of trafficking were found;
instead the police threw women out of the relative safety of their flats.
Offsite Comment: A supportive piece from the Daily Express
I HATE what these Soho girls do for a living but I admire their gumption and their refusal to cry victim simply because there is pressure to do so. Nothing succeeds like victimhood these days, especially -- I'm afraid -- if you're a woman. In Soho police
took one of the hookers to a place of safety even though she protested that she didn't want to go.
Bulldozers are set to roll into a historic Soho street after a massive redevelopment was given the green light, despite a string of objections claiming it would sanitise the area.
Soho Estates was given permission to demolish parts of Walkers
Court, Peter Street and Brewer Street to create new nightclubs, offices and a restaurant. The narrow backstreet Walkers Court is famous for the scores of brightly lit sex shops and the legendary Raymond Revuebar.
The scheme was given permission by
Westminster Council saying that the benefits of removing sex-related uses outweighed their concerns, which included the loss of unlisted buildings of merit , the increase in height of the buildings and the poor-quality studio flats
that would be built at another part of the development in Wardour Street.
More than 50 letters of objection were received from residents and business owners, which argued:
The changes would be harmful to the
character of the area. The seedier side of the area is one of its vital features, the proposals would sanitise Soho and accelerate the transition to a bland and characterless area.
Members of the English Collective of Prostitutes
attended the hearing wearing metallic red wigs and sunglasses and heckled the committee when they failed to mention the scores of sex workers who would be kicked out of the walk-up flats where women had legally been working for decades. They
shouted shame on you as the proposals were rubber-stamped. They said:
Excuse me, you haven't raised the harm caused to sex workers when they are thrown out of their flats that they've been in for 25 years or
longer. You didn't even mention it.
Offsite: Sex worker reports about what went on during the raid
A Closure Order against a flat in Tisbury Court, Soho, was thrown out of court this morning. District Judge Barrie found that insufficient steps had been taken to contact the owner of the premises.
This decision is in contrast to the rulings of
District Judge Susan Williams who presided over approximately ten other closure order cases against Soho flats over the last two weeks. She seemed determined to approve the closures regardless of the evidence or lack of it.
The Closure Orders came
about from police raids on premises on 4 December when over 200 officers broke down doors, put women out on the street and boarded up the flats. All the other flats remain closed.
Cari Mitchell from the English Collective of Prostitutes commented:
We were in court to witness every case where sex workers gave evidence about their situation. We saw that Judge Williams was strikingly biased in favour of the police. She disregarded evidence from sex workers who
bravely came forward to explain that they worked independently and were not being controlled. We are encouraged by this victory and we strongly urge women whose flats have been closed to appeal. To deprive mothers and grandmothers of their livelihood,
particularly at Christmas, is cruel and sadistic. Haven't the police got better things to do to protect women and girls from rape and sexual assault than to target women working consensually?
Actor Rupert Everett, who was in court for
two of the cases, described the closure orders as a land grab . This is in reference to local concerns that the closures of sex workers' flats aim to evict the original population of Soho to gentrify this historic area. Last week, a decision
approving Soho Estates' massive Walkers Court development was waved through by Westminster Council planning committee despite many objections, including from the Soho Society which represents most of the residents and businesses and from English
I have worked as a sex worker in at least ten different flats in Soho over the last six years. To my great fortune I wasn't there on Wednesday 4 December when 200 police raided the walk-up flats.
I saw that Met Police
Commander Alison Newcomb said the raids were not about the prosecution of prostitutes but to to close brothels where we have evidence of very serious crimes happening, including rape and human trafficking . I say to her: show us the
victims. I haven't heard of one arrest for rape or trafficking. Instead some of my friends were held for 23 hours and bullied into accepting cautions for criminal offences. Other women I know were taken to a place of safety despite them saying
that they weren't being forced to work.
Westminster Council backed the raids saying it aimed to help any vulnerable woman and that their safety is paramount . If the aim was to help victims, why did the police break
down doors and handcuff women while they searched premises? Why did they bring the media with them , which then published photos identifying women?
Soho is one of the safest places to work. This action will force women out onto
the street where it is 10 times more dangerous. Most of the women who have been evicted are mothers and grandmothers who have now lost their livelihood.
Closure orders against sex workers' flats are trundling their way through
court. One was granted yesterday and approximately seven more are scheduled over the next two weeks. Meanwhile the flats remain closed. In order to get a closure order, the police have to show that prostitution offences are being committed on the
premises, namely causing and inciting prostitution and controlling prostitution . Two women gave evidence yesterday to say that they were working independently, found out about the job from a friend, or by knocking on the door of the flat
and asking for a job, that they decided which days they would work, could turn down clients and --- crucially --- far from being controlled by a maid, they wanted to work with her because she helped protect them from attack. Police evidence said that
normal employment practices such as being required to work certain days of the week, between certain times, charge a specific amount of money for each service (which the police say is treating the sex worker as a commodity rather than a human )
all adds up to us being controlled. We take great offence at this. Does what we say about our own situation not matter?
I am terrified that if I get caught up in a police raid, it will come out what I do for a living. Can you
believe that the police who claim to have our interests at heart went to the home of one of the women arrested during those raids, and told her daughter what she did? Vindictive!
Evictions and closures of sex workers' flats are
opposed by many other Soho residents and businesses because they feel that if the girls go, the whole character of the historic area will change. It is this unique, diverse and tolerant community -- immigrant, LGBTQ venues, small independent
businesses, theatres -- which attracts many visitors from around the world. The raids, like the bedroom tax and benefit cap, are socially cleansing Soho for the super-rich.
On the 4th December police raided 25 premises in Soho and evicted, detained and harassed sex workers. They kicked down doors, closed working flats, took money and personal items, and manhandled women in the street in front of the photographers and
news crews they invited to witness this violence and intimidation. The media presence included Sky news, BBC and the Evening Standard. It would seem that victims of sex work need to be publicly humiliated and shamed in the media in order to be
properly saved from their work.
The raids were supposedly undertaken in order to locate stolen goods and to tackle prostitution (despite the fact that selling sex is not actually a crime) and to tackle human
trafficking. A number of migrant sex workers, many of whom have lived in the UK for years, have - devastatingly - been conveyed to the UKBA detention centre at Heathrow; this, despite having reassured police that they had not been trafficked into the
country, and were working voluntarily. Other women were instructed to appear in court the next morning. The charges against them are not yet known.
The closure of working flats will mean that women have lost their peer support
network, and their regular clients who they know to be safe. They will also now be working in locations unknown to outreach and health services, and will be less likely to access services - or report crimes against them - for fear of being forcibly
detained or arrested as either a victim or a criminal. They will have to continue to work, but may now have to work alone or outdoors, exposing them to greater risk. Amy, a sex worker within SWOU noted:
talking about 'greater risk', people should know, and should see from these events, that those who are supposed to 'protect' us often pose the greatest risk to us. This is the case both directly and indirectly - directly, when the cops kick down our
doors, drag us onto the street, and facilitate our humiliation; indirectly, when they signal to those who might wish to target us, that we don't deserve the protection of the law, that we can't report. The cops make us targets twice over.
The lasting effect of the raids will be increased risk, fear, violence and instability for these women, and many others like them.
Elisa , a migrant sex worker, said:
This is all so frightening. This backlash is spreading across Europe. It is more and more clear to me - seeing the German debates now too - that it all is an attempt to silence and marginalise mostly migrant workers, specifically
women, because if sex work was decriminalised and our work made safer, migrant women would achieve a place in society that they are not desired to have. Migrant women in the sex industry have to be victimised, silent, invisible (though sensationalised
and exposed at the same time when it needs to be for propaganda, and to add that spice), and better stay at home.
Cari Mitchell from the English Collective of Prostitutes, said:
is outrageous that the police are raiding premises where women are working together safely and collectively with friends. The police must know that some women will end up working on the street as a result, where it is much more dangerous. Most of the
women thrown out of premises are mothers and grandmothers who have now lost their livelihood.
Nic, a sex worker in Soho, said:
I feel so frightened. This is on my doorstep. Will I
be next? That the police brought the press with them demonstrates so much why we need the only legal framework that reduces, rather than increases, police power over us. Who can look at these events and think the police are using their power
respectfully, appropriately, non-abusively? This is violence against women, that the mainstream women's movement turns it's head from. We need full decriminalisation, including of our clients and our workplaces, because that is THE ONLY legal context in
which we are not at the mercy of these abusive and traumatic policing tactics; where we are not at risk of being dragged out onto the street. Sex work is work - we're already in mainstream trade unions. This is so frightening - we need solidarity.
A massive six-story development with an airport like lounge and heliport is being proposed at Walkers Court in the heart of Soho. The decision on this development is taking place
at Westminster Council planning committee on Tuesday 10 December .
A development of this kind will change the very character of the area, wreck the lively diverse community there and lead to the eviction of sex workers
from walk-up flats. Residents and small independent business will be particularly affected.
Possibly connected to this development, 200 police raided and closed 20 flats in Soho on the evening of 4 December. Both the
police and Westminster Council claim that the action was to save victims of trafficking. None of the women we are in touch are trafficked and they feel strongly that this is being used as an excuse to target them. Women are now fighting to defend their
rights to work in safety and support their families.
The raids, like the bedroom tax and benefit cap, are socially cleansing Soho for the super rich.
Please take action now:
Before Tuesday 10 December, write to the Head of the Planning Committee Robert Davis firstname.lastname@example.org with your objections.
Join us at the planning committee meeting on Tuesday 10
December 6.30pm at City Hall, 17th floor, 64 Victoria Street, SW1E 6PQ to demonstrate your objections.
Sign the petition to stop the eviction and prosecution of sex workers.
Over 25 sex workers' flats in Soho, Central London were raided by police last night (4 December). Police broke down doors, slapped closure notices on the doors of premises and threw women out onto the street. Some immigrant women were taken into
custody on the pretext that they may be victims of trafficking, despite their protestations that they were not being forced to work. Other women were given papers instructing them to appear in court today and tomorrow (5 and 6 December).
Mitchell from the English Collective of Prostitutes commented:
It is outrageous that the police are raiding premises where women are working together safely and collectively with friends. The police must know that some
women will end up working on the street as a result, where it is much more dangerous. Most of the women thrown out of premises are mothers and grandmothers who have now lost their livelihood.
Evictions and closure of the flats of sex
workers are opposed by many other local residents and businesses because they feel that if the Soho girls go the whole character of Soho will change. It is this unique, diverse and tolerant community -- immigrant, LGBTQ clubs, small independent
businesses, theatre --- which attracts many visitors from around the world. People fear that the evictions are aimed at making way for large scale development, like the one proposed in Walkers Court, which most residents are against.
Miserable Westminster Council is trying to hide Soho's colourful heritage after ordering a restaurant to remove neon signs harking back to its former glory as London's red light district.
The signs, which read peep show and adult video
, were installed outside the fashionable restaurant, La Bodega Negra, early last year as a homage to the area's history.
But after a nine-month fight with Westminster City Council, the restaurant, in Old Compton Street, has been issued
with a discontinuance notice to remove the signs, claiming they cause substantial injury to the area. The council noted that Soho is a conservation area.
Westminster council claims:
The continued display
of the neon advertisement is considered to constitute a substantial injury to the amenity of the area.
The restaurant argues that the signs, designed by Serge Becker, the creative director of La Esquina in New York and The Box in
London, are a work of art and have become a landmark in their own right. Restaurant owner Will Ricker vowed to fight council bosses by keeping the signs in place. He said:
They have completely failed to mention that it
was the centre of the capital's sex industry, which made Soho famous globally and a tourist attraction.
And now as it slowly changes away from that, we wanted to make a statement that paid homage to the cultural importance of that
epoch. Particularly as its remnants are being eradicated by landlords, the council and technology, the neons are a remnant of a vanishing, golden era that should be celebrated, not forgotten.
Porn baron Paul Raymond's granddaughter wants to change an iconic ex-strip club into serious theatre.
Fawn James will be applying to Westminster Council next month to change the former site of the table-dancing club Revuebar into a theatre.
She is applying for a change of use for a table-dancing club she owns above the former Revuebar, which is now the home of the Box erotic nightclub.
James has said she plans to move out the lapdancers and create a new, 120-seat theatre which
she will manage herself, and hopes her new theatre will showcase up-and-coming young directors and playwrights.
Paul Raymond opened the Revuebar in Walkers Court in 1958.
Hardcore pornography seized from unlicensed sex shops in the West End will be destroyed by Westminster council.
Around 20,000 pornographic DVDs and sex toys, worth about Ł500,000, are to be incinerated after 63 separate raids on sex shops
operating without a licence. The seized items are being kept in a storage facility before being sent for burning.
Councillor Frixos Tombolis, deputy cabinet member for public 'elf and premises, weakly tried to justify exorbitant licence fees by
trying to claim that these were somehow for the good of the legal shops rather than for morality and politicking reasons:
It can be a long and costly process to close these premises down for not having a licence. Some owners try to
hide behind a front of selling souvenirs or mugs and sell unclassified illegal DVDs in the back of the shop.
Members Only by Paul Willetts is available at UK Amazon
Members Only by Paul Willetts is a biography of Soho porn mogul Paul Raymond.
Paul Willetts writes:
For all Paul Raymond's manifest faults and unappealing characteristics, I began to see him as an
unexpectedly heroic figure. There was something admirable about the dogged yet stylish way in which he challenged the authorities and the old, often hypocritical assumptions. His first major brush with controversy came in April 1958 when he opened the
Revuebar, located in the heart of Soho, an area traditionally associated with the commercial exploitation of sex. Among Britain's first strip-clubs, it cunningly sidestepped the rules on nudes having to remain static. Raymond did so by making the
Revuebar a private members' club instead of a conventional theatre. Since the delights of striptease had hitherto been almost inaccessible, his club attracted a sizeable membership list before it had even opened. Its popularity was destined to bring him
into conflict with the Metropolitan Police's Clubs Office which sought a pretext to close down the Revuebar.
Through his battle with the authorities, which continued for well over a decade, Raymond played a pivotal but
largely unacknowledged role in the erosion of stifling censorship and the establishment of the so-called Permissive Society in Britain during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Motivated by commercial self-interest that masqueraded as staunch
libertarian principle, he challenged the police, judiciary and press. Successive court cases, one of which could have led to him being gaoled, enabled him to push the skin trade — be it strip-shows, magazines or theatre shows — from the margins into the
Soho is losing its unique atmosphere because of crackdowns on vice and an influx of chain restaurants, according to historians.
BBC presenter Dan Cruickshank is leading calls for Westminster council and police to stop trying to sanitise
The council has announced a drive against drug dealers, street prostitutes and unlicensed sex shops, as well as drunken and anti-social behaviour, in an attempt to 'clean up' the area before the expected influx of visitors for the
A police operation this month led to 50 arrests. More than 60 pedicabs have been seized and some £500,000 of illegal pornography destroyed following 22 raids on unlicensed sex shops.
But historians and residents say
late-night revelry and all that goes with it are part the area's character. Cruickshank, who presented Around the World in 80 Treasures on BBC2, said: Soho is almost beyond recovery and I find it rather heartbreaking. Now it attracts chain
shops, chain bars and chain restaurants and is no longer unconventional or curious. If the drunk and disorderly are people who come from outside as somewhere to hang out it's not on. But equally, a sense of wildness and inventive roughness creates some
artistic individuals who do some interesting things.
Soho is still home to celebrated bars, clubs and restaurants, and is the hub of London's gay scene. Cruickshank said sex shops had long been part of the local scene.
A drive to clean up Soho and to diminish its red-light image has been unveiled by Westminster City Council.
Council leader Colin Barrow has pledged to shut down the last remaining unlicensed sex premises following the recent closure of 51 sex
shops and the complete eradication of clip joints.
Councillor Barrow said: The idea that the seedy side of Soho is a magnet for tourists and creative trade is a flawed one. It may well be a curiosity, but there is no compelling economic
argument for this.
This is not about sanitising the area ...BUT... simply making it fit for a modern capital city where people are more aware than ever of the true costs of prostitution and drugs to society.
A senior police officer claims that there are more fake prostitutes and drug dealers than real ones on the streets of Soho in London's West End. Soho was once known as a notorious area for its sex shops, but now while there are still some prostitutes who
work inside some premises, the ones on the streets are almost all fake operators.
Det Chief Supt Andy Rowell says that the area has been cleaned-up by the police, but now the danger comes from con artists targeting gullible foreign tourists and
The fake drug dealers pass off boot polish or liquorice as cannabis, and wax wrapped in foil as crack cocaine and aspirin pills, with the markings rubbed off on the side of a matchbox, as tablets.
Where the fake
prostitutes are concerned, around 15 of them work together by taking a deposit for a room then disappearing, or luring a punter into an alleyway where a male accomplice will relieve them of their cash.
Rowell said: Soho is now a safe
place to come and enjoy yourself - but please don't come looking for drugs and prostitutes. You will almost certainly get something you didn't expect.
A judge has ruled that a Soho brothel shut down by police earlier this month can reopen for business.
Metropolitan police officers used antisocial behaviour legislation that came into effect at the end of last year to issue a closure notice on
two flats in Dean Street, Soho, where sex is sold. But yesterday Mr Justice Riddle, sitting at Horseferry Road magistrates court, refused the Metropolitan Police's application to have the closure order confirmed.
I am not satisfied that any
person has engaged in antisocial behaviour on the premises, he ruled.
A large group of sex workers and their maids made a rare public appearance when they attended the court hearing earlier this week. They were supported by some of Soho's
residents including Father David Gilmore, rector of St Anne's church.
In court, sergeant Dean Else argued that antisocial behaviour, crime and disorder, blatant acts of drug dealing and clipping in the local environs were linked to the
sale of sex inside 61 Dean Street. When asked to provide examples of incidents of antisocial behaviour linked to the sex work flats he cited the example of a member of the public who had their wrist cut to facilitate a robbery at the premises. He
admitted, however, that he had not been able to find any record of this incident on the police computer and Mr Justice Riddle said that the evidence was third-hand, anonymous hearsay.
Father Gilmore said that drug dealing was common
throughout Soho, including outside his church: but I have never seen it happening outside 61 Dean Street.
Sgt Else said: I understand the judge's decision. Now I have to go back and arrange for the premises to be reopened.
On 18 December, three police officers from Charing Cross Clubs and Vice Unit visited a flat in Romilly Street, Soho, London and issued a written notice against Ms Tracey Ramsey who works as a receptionist there, that they intend charging her with controlling prostitution for gain
. Soho has been one of the safest places for women in the sex industry to work. As a receptionist, Ms Ramsey is women’s first line of defence against violent attacks and exploitation. If the police are allowed to proceed against Ms Ramsey,
other receptionists will be driven away and women will be forced to work alone. Why are police targeting safe premises?
The police are familiar with this and other flats in Soho. The police notice claimed that their visit was to check the
welfare of the occupants and to ensure that there are no juveniles or trafficked victims working at the location . It threatened charges such as: “to keep or to manage, or to act or assist in the management of a brothel; controlling
prostitution for gain as well as causing or inciting child prostitution. No underage or trafficked women or any evidence of force or coercion was found at the premises, and none had been found during the weekly visits by the police during the
whole month of September.
In the last two months, Westminster Council licensing inspectors have raided and closed down two illegal hostess bars, which lured men in under the false premise of adult entertainment then charged them exorbitant rates for soft drinks in the company of
hostesses. One of these hostess bars was also an illegal gambling club.
Clip joints, as they are informally known, have previously circumvented licensing legislation by not selling alcohol or offering adult entertainment, despite displaying
garish signs such as “sexy girls”.
But following extensive lobbying from Westminster City Council, the LLA Act 2007 (London Local Authorities Act) means the venues now need to apply for a sex establishment licence if they wish to continue
trading, putting them under the control of the local licensing authority for the first time.
Two years ago there were eight clip joints operating in Westminster but tough enforcement by Westminster Council and the Metropolitan Police for breaches
of planning and health and safety regulations has led to the closure of six.