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STREETS BEHIND: Have UK sex workers won right to be taken home?

by on June 13, 2010

THERE WAS SOME GOOD NEWS for UK sex working streetwalkers last week – which doesn’t happen very often. And in the dock at the Court of Appeal was a banker – which must cheer everybody up!

The 32-year-old bank worker’s appeal against conviction for an assault causing actual bodily harm to a sex worker was thrown out by the court.

Bradford Crown Court

The man, Paul Burns, had picked up a streetwalker in Huddersfield’s red light area and paid her £50. He then drove away from the pick up point for about ten minutes to a more secluded area near his home – Valley Mill apartments, Park Road, Elland – having agreed to drive her back afterwards – before leaving the car to relieve himself, according to the court judgement.

But Burns then decided not to have sex with the woman, and forcibly evicted her from his car, causing scratches and grazes to her legs, which were bleeding.

His lawyer argued that he had a similar right – to use ‘reasonable force’ – to evict her from his car as one might have in evicting someone from one’s house.

No, the court decided. At least, not in this case.

Said the judgement:

…we accept that it might be open to the owner of a vehicle, in the last resort and when all reasonably practicable alternatives have failed, forcibly to remove an individual who has entered into his vehicle without permission and refuses to leave it.

However, where that individual entered the car as a passenger, in effect at the invitation of the car owner, on the basis that they mutually understood that when their dealings were completed she would be driven back in the car from whence she had come, the use of force to remove her at [Burns’] unilateral whim, was unlawful.

In any event, the resort to self-help was not justified in the circumstances of this case because [Burns] could readily have regained exclusive possession to his vehicle by means not involving the use of force, that is, by simply driving the complainant back to the starting point.

So it appears that sex workers who have agreed with the client to be returned to their pick-up point can legally have a sit-in in their clients’ vehicles unless and until the client makes good his promise, and there isn’t much the client can do about it.

However, I wouldn’t recommend trying this with Burns. Indeed, I wouldn’t recommend going within a mile of him.

A quick Googling exercise reveals that Burns was originally charged with a variety of attacks on six women, three of them sex workers, sometimes after taking cocaine, according to the prosecution.

But a jury at Bradford Crown Court cleared him of nine out of eleven charges, including allegations of false imprisonment and actual and attempted sexual assaults against members of the half dozen.

Together with the ABH case that he appealed, he was also convicted of attacking an 18-year-old walking home alone at about 4am near his home. He tried to drag her from the main road and demanded she have sex with him. He only left her alone after she bit his hand and screamed for help.

According to the Appeal Court judgement, he had also admitted a case of assault.

Having served six months on remand, he was given a suspended sentence.

Given the tiny percentage of ‘kerb crawlers’ who behave violently to sex workers, Burns strikes me as exactly the sort of person the police should be monitoring 24/7 – instead of wasting time on kerb crawling drives that net the innocent as well as the guilty.

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