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by on October 1, 2009

THINK OF HUMAN  sex trafficking and you think of young, usually migrant women forced into prostitution against their will by villains.

Often, though not always, they are attracted to the UK with promises of vanilla jobs, and then imprisoned and forced to service men, paying all their earnings to traffickers who see them as nothing but cash cows.Yan Yang

This horrendous practice takes place throughout the world. And this includes the UK, though the numbers here are clearly far less than often painted – hundreds, rather than the 4,000 once (very badly) “estimated” by the Home Office but still quoted on occasions.

It is, of course, a very serious offence, for which one can spend up to 14 years in prison. Which is why one should be angry when it is used gratuitously against someone who clearly does not deserve the label.

Such a person is Yan Yang (right), a 50-year-old woman gaoled for 10 months at Ipswich Crown Court this week. Her “human trafficking” offence was to arrange a taxi from the local station for two young women who had come from London to work for her.

Let’s make no bones about it – Yan Yang was setting up a parlour (aka brothel) in Ashmere Grove in the town. She already had one young woman in her employ, and the two arrivals from London had responded to an advertisement she placed for masseuses in a Chinese newspaper.

But everyone concerned was of age, knew they were selling sex, and there was no question of coercion, deceit or any other interference with volition that is the hallmark of a human trafficking case, as internationally defined.

The quartet’s time working together was short lived, but eventful. One of the new arrivals was immediately despatched to service eight clients – who had likely been waiting in anticipation for her for some time. This she accomplished by midnight, for which she received £160 from Yan Yang plus £40 in tips.

The following morning Yan Yang and the two new arrivals set out on a lingerie purchasing expedition. However, some altercation over payment resulted in the police being called. The rest is history.

Not a soul had complained about Yang’s brothel activities, or, if they had, the complaints were not mentioned in court.

Yan Yang was charged with, and admitted, keeping a brothel for gain. When this offence was first created, by the Victorians in 1885, it carried a maximum three months prison sentence. In 2003 this was extended to seven years.

She was also charged with, and admitted, controlling a prostitute for gain. It is very doubtful whether one could manage a brothel without controlling a prostitute, so this is somewhat tautological.

As she had made money (she’d paid £1,100 into her account on the day of the lingerie incident) she further admitted possessing criminal property, and as she’d sent £8,000 to China, a further charge of sending £8,000 of criminal proceeds outside the UK.

All of which seems a bit much already, considering her brothel had been a brothel (which has to have at least two sex workers) for less than two days at the time of her arrest.

But no. The Crown Prosecution Service had to add the human trafficking offence as well, because she’d arranged the taxi!

The arrangement of a taxi, then (maximum sentence 14 years) is deemed twice as serious as running a brothel. Do consider this next time you book one: in UK criminal justice terms, you could open two brothels for the price.

This silly little adventure by what the Chinese might call the Clown Prosecution Service, is possible due to a team of idiots responsible for drafting what Chris Huhne calls the Government’s “legislative diarrhoea.”

The internationally agreed Palermo Protocol definition of a sex trafficker requires, in the case of the trafficking of adults, that they have used force or other coercion, fraud, or deceit, or taken advantage of vulnerability.

Obviously Yan Yang had done none of these things. But she had ordered the taxi, which makes her sin just as great in the eyes of the UK Government.

Why, you might well ask?

Well, for some reason best known to itself, UK sex trafficking law is purely concerned with moving people into, around or out of the UK. Fraud, coercion, deceit and so forth (and the little matter of whether these people actually want to get to, from and around the UK) are all deemed totally irrelevant. What matters is whether you intend their use in any crime in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which includes a whole host of possibilities, including, for example, incest and having sex in a public loo, as well as running brothels.

So, where are we?

  • Another human sex trafficking conviction’s been added to Home Office stats to mislead Parliament into believing the problem’s bigger than it is and is being dealt with

  • Yan Yang’s been incarcerated for 10 months

  • Their madam gone and their brothel closed, the three young women she employed have presumably been left wandering around the Ipswich streets made famous by Steve Wright, the UK’s most famous serial killer of prostitutes in modern times.

Is this crazy? Of course it is. It’s completely Marsham Street. But that’s legislative diarrhoea for you.

They really ought to be locked up, these people.

Based on the court report in the Evening Star.

© 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. There are so many terrible instances in which prostitution per se is conflated with trafficking. I sadly say that the Palermo Protocol doesn’t take a position on prostitution, only to say that countries that wish to define all prostitution as as trafficking (actually third parties as traffickers) can do that, or those with legal prostitution they can also do that and still sign on to this treaty.

    The UK law sounds awful!

  2. I have a comment on my own comment because I have been studying this lately. The Palermo Protocol was the first time the UN treaties didn’t equate prostitution with a violation of human rights. I think that was an important milestone that I don’t think is touted much.

  3. Thanks Carol. Personally, I’m a great believer in Palermo. Countries have a tendency to utilise the protocol only for trafficking, but if you take the formula in Article Three, it can be broken without stepping out of a room, and it could replace an awful lot of nonsense in current UK law.

    There is some loose wording, such as what, exactly, is a position of strength and what, precisely, a position of vulnerability, for example, but as a basis for future domestic law, I think it has a lot going for it. Which is probably why our Home Office has f***ed it up so much!

  4. Douglas fox permalink

    Recently in Newcastle half a dozen drivers employed by an agency (the owner of which is now serving four years) were released with out charges. They had all spent two years taking women to and from appointments and to and from brothels. It seems that once again our post code system of justice was at play with this unfortunate would be madame.

  5. The prosecuters are as confused over what trafficking is as the Home Office ministers are, Douglas. Remember

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