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by on August 12, 2009

Imani Williams

ON FEBRUARY 23 last year, three men appeared before magistrates in London charged with 18 counts of gang rape, and various counts of conspiracy to burgle and rob at a series of brothels.  

As national headlines dwelt on the conviction of Ipswich serial killer Steve Wright two days earlier, little space was devoted to this culmination of a successful inquiry by the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime Directorate. 

But between them, Ibrahim Gunduz (18), of Hackney, Imani Williams and Andre Victor (both 20, of Upper Clapton), had robbed 13 women and raped or sexually assaulted seven in a five week reign of terror targeting brothels in Newham, Hackney and Waltham Forest. 

A handgun was used to threaten women and Gunduz feigned disability by using a crutch with which he later battered his victims into submission. 

Eight months after appearing before the magistrates, the trio were sentenced to a total of 53 years imprisonment. 

But hardly had the cell doors been slammed shut on the thugs than the same problem flared up again – this time hitting brothels in Redbridge and east London. The Ilford Recorder‘s report is sadly missing now from the web, but read as follows: 

A GANG of men threatened prostitutes with guns and knives while robbing a brothel three times in a week. 

The manager said a string of girls have quit their jobs amid fears for their safety as police hunt the culprits – and believes the gang is targeting brothels across Redbridge and east London….  

The boss, who asked to remain anonymous through fear of reprisals, said: “It was the same bunch of guys every time. They kick the doors down and say they will use weapons. Even though we couldn’t see any, who wants to take that risk? Each time they took money, the girls’ mobile phones and laptops. Luckily I don’t keep large amounts of cash on-site.” 

During the first raid the robbers screamed ‘armed police” as they burst in.  The manager…said: “The police have been really good with us, but they are worried these men will burst into people’s homes by mistake. They have helped us improve locks and we have also fitted CCTV and employed security guards.”  

The gang – unmasked black men aged between 18 and 25 – are rumoured to have carried out similar raids across Barking and Dagenham, as well as Romford.  

The boss said: “They are really quite aggressive and scary. I have been left very shocked by all of this and people are terrified of it happening again.”  

A Redbridge Police spokesman said: “With regards to the robberies taking place in brothels, I first have to state that these businesses are advertised as massage parlours, which means they are legal premises. When a crime is reported it is dealt with in exactly the same way as any other crime. There has been an increase in massage parlour robberies and we are asking the businesses to ensure they report any crimes, such as robberies, to the police. The crime prevention team visits such businesses and replaces locks to reinforce the security of the premises.”   

Perhaps the first thing to notice about this report is its language: to the public, the journalists of the Ilford Recorder, the manager, and the sex workers within them, these places are brothels. Only the police have to massage the language with the legal nicety of ‘massage parlours.’  

The problem does not stop at rape and robbery. The academic Hilary Kinnell established 118 UK murder victims as sex workers between 1990 and 2006, and though more than three-quarters worked the streets rather than indoors, Kinnell believes the present laws hamper sex worker safety and that Home Office anti-prostitution policy “denies sex workers safety from violence.”  

It doesn’t take a genius to appreciate that brothels have long been seen as soft targets for criminals, but under New Labour, the problem has become considerably worse. The Victorians, with their prudishness and moral fervour, introduced a modest three month maximum prison term or £100 fine for owners and managers when they first banned brothels in 1885. But under New Labour, the penalty has risen to no less than seven years. 

Not only that, but brothel management has been declared an Orwellian ‘life style crime’ under Labour’s new Proceeds of Crime Act. All assets deemed arising from the brothel can be seized and shared among the police and the rest of the criminal justice system, while the new Policing and Crime Bill would enable premises used as brothels to be closed for three months. 

All this, of course, signals a huge green light to rapists and thugs to do as they please with brothels and those within them.  

Who dials 999 in a brothel?  

Those in the cases above, perhaps, but they are very much the exceptions to the rule. 

A study in Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh by Stephanie Church  and others published in the British Medical Journal in 2001 showed that although brothel workers suffered far less violence than street sex workers, only 18 percent of violence victims in brothels reported the incidents to the police, compared to 44 percent of those on the street. 

And that was BEFORE Labour’s changes came into effect. 

Cases like those that began this posting, along with venues like the Dagenham brothel in Essex featured in Channel 4’s A WI Lady’s Guide to Brothels, where the police had kitted out the venue with panic alarms, reveal the Alice in Westminsterland world of Home Office ministers and illustrate the lengths to which tomorrow’s inhabitants of Marsham Street will need to go to regain any shred of credibility in this area. 

So preoccupied are the politicians with that strand of radical feminism who seek the ‘eradication’ of prostitution on ideological grounds that all sense of duty to preserve the safety of those involved, and all recognition of the need to battle real crime and real criminals when it arises, is lost. Happily, that cannot be said for all police forces. 

In the strange hidden subculture of the Home Office, though, the present strategy aims to ’disrupt’ both the indoor and outdoor sex markets. Dr Teela Sanders, Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Crime and Deviance at Leeds University, is one of numerous academics highly critical of the Government policy. She says:   

Historically, there are several accounts of how the laws against brothel keeping and advertising have not been enforced but instead the indoor markets, where there have been no causes for concern, have been left to their own devices. Accounts also indicate the receptionists, sex workers, owners and managers have a functional relationship with the police acting as informers for other crimes and being warned when raids were to take place. However…the tolerance attributed to well managed massage parlours may now be changing as the (Prostitution) Strategy aims to ‘disrupt the sex markets’.  

Already, there have been several clear cases of the Home Office looking ridiculous by chopping off its head to save its face. 

There was the case of Jennifer Schott, who sobbed throughout court proceedings at Kingston Crown Court after starting a brothel to escape the violence on the streets. After police found a man and woman in bed at her premises and her takings – just £130 stuffed in a cushion – she was banged up for 15 months: five times the maximum sentence the Victorians would have given her. The police had known about her brothel but had turned a blind eye until one day when they were pressured to act by the Inland Revenue when she tried to pay her tax. 

Then there was Diana Jones, who owned and managed several brothels mainly in South Wales, who was prosecuted and narrowly escaped prison when she was foolish enough to report to police that two of the women working voluntarily in her establishments had been trafficked. 

Evidence given in court gave the lie to police assertions that they had known nothing of the enterprises before the case. Having acted, as the BBC put it, for others’ safety, the latest reports suggest she’s now in Cyprus, trying to avoid the payment of £2.6m claimed as the proceeds of her so-called ‘life style crime’ -probably on the basis of maths like these. 

So what kind of nightmare is the Home Office trying to create with its so-called ‘Coordinated prostitution strategy‘? Millipedes with multiple sclerosis display better coordination. 

Do we want a world in which real victims of real rapes and robberies feel they can approach the police, even if this disturbs the radical feminist idealists? 

Or do we want one in which those who pay their tax and do everything possible to combat human trafficking wind up incarcerated or living in exile, fleeing from the law? 

We had best decide. Clearly the politicians at Her Majesty’s Home Office have no intention of doing so. 

(See also Who Dials 999 in a Brothel? 2) 

© Stephen Paterson and An Anthology of English Pros, 2008-2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Stephen Paterson and An Anthology of English Pros with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.         

  1. peter schevt permalink

    in prestwich,manchester,there have been armed robberys at massage parlours.
    greater manchester police(gmp) have a tolerance of massage parlours, so parlour owners are’nt afraid to call police whenever there is trouble.
    the enlightened policy of gmp is to do with the safety of sex workers

  2. That’s great news, Peter – not about the robberies, of course! I understand Liverpool is quite progressive, too, and has categorised violence against sex workers as hate crime. The question for both Greater Manchester and Merseyside police, however, must be whether they can stand up to the Home Office.

    It all seems something of a postcode lottery around the country over what stances forces take.

  3. Claire Charras permalink

    Hi Stephen,

    I see you indeed have an extensive knowledge of the sex industry and what its endeavours. For now I’m not planning on writing anything further but when I do I’ll make sure to check your blog. It’s a very interesting subject on which I still have trouble taking a stance as the pros and cons of each organisations are valid depending on the aspects.
    As for the link you sent me, I do remember having looked at it but decided to take the report about Challenging Men’s Demand on Prostitution as it was all the same, as it gave me an insight of SOME of the punters attitude (of course not all are like that…), but it was an interesting and shocking side to discover. Perhaps sterotypical but none the less existing. In defense to the WSP, the person who I spoke to was very rational about the whole thing and reaslitic about the fact that not all prostitutes are victims but they however wanted to give a voice who those who were and that’s who they worked for first and foremost. The IUSW and ECP on the other hand seemed to deny a lot more the dangers of prostitution.

    Anyway, sorry for the rant and good luck with the continuation of the blog.
    Anyway, sorry if t


  4. Claire, the link I gave you on your blog was that of the academic response to Challenging Men’s Demand for Prostitution in Scotland (which, for newbies, is at ). It was not offered as an alternative to Challenging Men’s Demand, but as something you need to read to put Challenging Men’s Demand into a sensible context.

    I don’t think either the ECP or the IUSW belittle the dangers of the sex industry. Indeed, they seem to know a lot more about them than those who have never been in the sex industry, such as the moral crusaders of the WSP.

    My information is that unbiased surveys of clients of sex workers generally find them to be a representative cross-section of men in the communities studied.

    The IUSW/ECP and most academics’ opinion is that further criminalisation of persons conected with the sex industry will increase the dangers.

  5. Hello from Russia)

  6. Seems like a good time to move..

  7. Hi Stephen,

    I enjoyed your blog. I’m new to WordPress, but not new to brothels.
    In my years as a madam I was lucky enough to seen as an establishment to be ‘left alone’ by the underworld. The few problems we did have I involved the police. We had a Redcare alarm system that informed them of any trouble, and they were always fair and considerate.
    The changes in law, and the lies and hysteria created by the last government made me decide to sell up in 2009.
    I would no longer feel safe dialing 999 as it seems liable to land you in clink for any number of reasons these days, mostly unrelated to the original problem.
    Bloody shocking.

    Madam Becky x

  8. Hello Madam Becky, very much enjoyed your blog to date. Do keep it going. Things, I’m afraid, are only likely to get worse before they get better, especially with the Olympics approaching (on which I’m researching another posting).

    If they’re all that concerned about the demand, they should start worrying about what happens to the demand and supply when responsible places like yours shut down because they can’t take the hassle they’re creating.

    I’ll add you to my blog role.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. MURDER PROBE: POLICE SEEK BROTHELS’ HELP « An Anthology of English Pros
  2. A Sex Industry Guide to the 2010 General Election « An Anthology of English Pros
  3. An Open Letter to Theresa May « An Anthology of English Pros
  4. Who dials 999 in a brothel? (2) « An Anthology of English Pros

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