Victory — closure order on sex workers’ Soho flat defeated; the flat re-opens!
Two sex workers’ flats in Soho, central London were yesterday re-opened by a judge at Isleworth Crown Court. Judge JW Kingston rejected police evidence that women working in walk-up flats in Brewer Street were being controlled or incited into prostitution for gain. He overturned the closure order and directed that the flat could reopen.
Judge Kingston’s decision brought for the first time some common sense to legal cases, which have been rumbling through the courts since mass raids at the beginning of December closed 18 flats. He ruled that: “the furthest the evidence goes is to show that the Appellants used the first and second floor flats for prostitution by arrangement with other sex workers at mutually convenient and agreed times. That does not constitute control within the meaning of Section 53 [of the Sexual Offences Act 2003].”
Ms Lori Bora who has worked at the premises for five years and who gave evidence in court, commented:
“I am very pleased that justice was served. The police should be ashamed of themselves to accuse us of being controlled when they know very well we are not. Nobody tells me when and how long to work. To the judge I say that he is welcome to come down and see us girls in Soho at any time . . . for a cup of tea. Good luck to the other girls who are in court on Monday [24th Feb] trying to reopen their flat.”
Niki Adams of the English Collective of Prostitutes, who gave evidence in support of the two women, commented:
“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. This decision is timely as women have been without an income since the beginning of December. Many are in debt and some were about to be made homeless.”
In her evidence to the court Ms Adams highlighted the issue of safety “Soho is one of the safest places for women to work as they have a maid or receptionist with them, CCTV to monitor clients and the solid support of the local community.”
She drew attention to the recent murders of two sex workers – Marianna Popa was working on the street and Maria Duque-Tunjano was working indoors, but alone.
Most of the women who were evicted in Soho are mothers and grandmothers; some have been part of the Soho community for decades. Local people are alarmed that the closures are to make way for the gentrification of historic Soho, what actor Rupert Everett described as “a land-grab, facilitated by the police.”
The Soho vicar, Rev’d Buckley, has expressed concern that the “safety and well-being of a section of our community has been jeopardised by this operation”.
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