Melon Farmers Original Version

Sheila Farmer

Sex worker persecuted for trying to work safely


Update: Complex Social Phenomena...

Amnesty International speaks against Northern Ireland proposals to criminalise buyers of sex

Link Here26th May 2014
Full story: Sheila Farmer...Sex worker persecuted for trying to work safely

Amnesty International has urged Northern Ireland's politicians to ditch plans to criminalise the purchasing of sex. The human rights organisation wants a clause contained in a bill against human trafficking to be excised because it argues it would create a hierarchy of criminal liability among sex workers.

Clause six of the bill would make it a criminal offence to buy, but not sell, sex and is based on Sweden's repressive model. Lord Morrow, a Democratic Unionist member of the Stormont assembly who also sits in the House of Lords, has been trying to force the bill through the devolved parliament.

Amnesty stressed it was not taking sides on the debate over sex work and prostitution, but said sex work and human trafficking were two very complex social phenomena that required different laws. Grainne Teggart, Amnesty's Northern Ireland campaigner, said:

We recommend that our political parties remove clause six from the bill and that planned research into sex work by the Department of Justice is used to inform future policy, which should establish the degree to which legislation -- together with educational, social, cultural and other measures -- could serve to reduce the demand that fuels trafficking, including for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

It is claimed this clause will help protect sex workers by shifting the criminal liability away from them as the seller of sexual services, to the purchaser. In reality, it fails to do this and provides no exploration of, or guarantees against, the potential unintended consequences of such a move. It is clear that many others, including the police, share our concerns on the risk of potential negative effects.

In effect, clause six would introduce a hierarchy of criminal liability amongst those engaged in the selling of sexual services, many of whom may be vulnerable, with some remaining at risk of prosecution and others not.


17th January

Update: Disgraceful Policing...

Encouraging violent gangs to prey on sex workers

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 .

...Read the full article

Offsite: Other Examples are the cases of Hannah Morris and Sheila Farmer

See  article from

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: 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.

...Read the full article


16th January

 Offsite: Reprehensible Policing...

Why prostitutes are living in a climate of fear

See article from


5th January

Update: Sheila Farmer Cleared...

An end to the case of police and CPS persecution of the victim of a violent robbery

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.


7th October

Updated: Reprehensible Policing...

Sheila Farmer speaks about her persecution for sex work

June 11 was the London slut walk, Niki Adams from the English Collective of Prostitutes condemns the UK laws and the police for the danger prostitutes are put in. Shelia Farmer also speaks from personal experience on what happens to us when we work together for safety. We can end up going to prison, loose all all earnings for the last 7 years through the proceeds of Crime Act. Changes to the law brought about by the Labour Government have exacerbated the problem allowing brothels to be closed quickly and POCA to be used against us.

The Proceeds of Crime Act was designed to recover earnings from serious crime. It is now used to recover earnings from us, mothers and women providing consensual sexual services working together. The money recovered is split between the police, the CPS and the state. This encourages the police to target prostitutes as an easy money earning exercise. This along with a general state hatred of us and pressure to criminalise our clients has forced us to work more circumspectly and never to trust the persons in blue.

Where are our human rights to work together in safety? What other job forces you to work alone?

...See the video

No word yet of what actually happened at the trial scheduled for September though.

Update: Trial Delayed

11th November 2011. See  article from

Sheila Farmer's trial is now set for 3rd January 2012.


20th August

Update: Sheila Farmer...

Request for letters campaigning against prosecution of sex worker merely trying to work safely

Dear friends,

We have asked you to write before in support of Sheila Farmer demanding that her prosecution for brothel-keeping be dropped. We ask now if you can please write again.

Ms Farmer's case has been widely publicised: despite her ill health she spoke to 5000 people at the SlutWalk march in Trafalgar Sq on 11 June, a protest was held outside the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on 1st July, over a thousand people have written to her MP, and Women Against Rape and ourselves met with DPP Keir Starmer urging him to intervene, which he has so far refused to do. However, there is a strong indication that all the letters and publicity are having an impact.

The CPS has put out misinformation saying that Ms Farmer ran a nuisance brothel and was prosecuted because neighbours complained. None of the neighbours' complaints were substantiated. Some were clearly false including a claim that children were on the premises. The police visited the premises and knew that Ms Farmer was leaving and still raided the flat a week later and arrested Ms Farmer. Further proof that this prosecution is vindictive.

We include below a model letter. Please add personal details and your own views as it will have more impact.

The case comes to court on 5 September. The letter should be sent to:

Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions Crown Prosecution Service Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS

COPY TO: Jo Johnson MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA Tel: 020 7219 7125

And to the English Collective of Prostitutes at the address above.

Model letter:

Dear Keir Starmer,

I'm writing to ask for the prosecution of Sheila Farmer to be dropped immediately. Ms Farmer is a 50-year-old cancer patient and is being prosecuted for managing a brothel. Her case comes to court on 5 September.

[Add something about who you are and your situation].

Ms Farmer has been a diabetic since childhood. She had to leave her job as an IT consultant due to progressive loss of vision, the result of her life-long condition. She went into prostitution to provide for herself and her son. At first, she worked on her own. Within six months, she was viciously attacked, raped and nearly killed. To protect herself she decided to work with others. There was no force or coercion involved and all the women had control over their own earnings.

Ms Farmer now has a malignant brain tumour. Her hospital consultant has written to the court saying I am afraid the future is uncertain and one can almost guarantee that the tumour will grow and progress in the relatively near future. If possible it would be medically justifiable to try and avoid any stress associated with any prolonged Court hearing.

Not only does Ms Farmer face a prolonged trial, she faces up to seven years in prison for a consensual act which should not be criminalised. Sex workers' safety should be prioritised. It is much safer for sex workers to work together. If sex workers are prosecuted they will be less likely to come forward to report rape and other violence. Violent men know this and are being given a green light by the authorities to attack. [Add something about why you are concerned about rape and other violence.]

Other points you may want to include: ? Ms Farmer is one of hundreds of women who are being prosecuted for brothel-keeping or related charges for working together for safety. Hanna Morris was charged with prostitution offences after she dialled 999 to report a serious attack on her colleague. The attackers went free despite comprehensive information being given to the police of their identity and location. News of that prosecution has spread and is deterring other sex workers from coming forward. More women will be raped and even killed as a result. ? As poverty increases, more women, particularly mothers, are being forced into prostitution. Government research found that 74% of women working indoors and 28% of women working outdoors cited the need to pay household expenses and support their children as the prime motivating factor . A criminal record makes it harder to leave the sex industry and find other employment. ? Under Proceeds of Crime law the police keep 50% of assets confiscated during raids and 25% from subsequent prosecutions, with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) keeping another 25%. Women have lost their life savings, house and possessions. It seems that raids, arrests and prosecutions are being fuelled by a desire of the police and CPS to profit. There is also widespread corruption with accusations from women of the police being paid to bring the press with them on raids. ? The CPS has wide discretion in which offences it prosecutes. Lord Shawcross, Attorney General, in 1951 made this clear: It has never been the rule in this country --- I hope it never will be --- that suspected criminal offences must automatically be the subject of prosecution . (House of Commons Debates, volume 483, column 681, 29 January 1951.)

Given all the circumstances of this case, we cannot understand how this prosecution can be judged to be in the public interest. I urge you to drop the case immediately.

Yours sincerely.

Update: Delayed

5th September 2011. See  article from

Sheila Farmer's case is now not starting on Monday 5 September. We expect it to start on Thursday 8 September but we shall not know definitely until Wednesday.


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