LONDON 2012 SEX WORK POLICING SLAMMED IN NEW REPORT
A NEW report harshly critical of the Metropolitan Police’s approaches to the capital’s sex industry in the Olympics run-up has been delivered to London Mayor Boris Johnson.
The report slams the Met’s key anti-trafficking section, SCD9, for its gung-ho approach in raiding brothels and alienating sex workers, resulting in a reluctance by them to report serious assaults and robberies.
Meanwhile, victims from a major source of sex trafficking – Nigeria – go ignored as they are to be found in closed markets known only to their traffickers and their contacts – as distinct from brothels – the report says.
In this respect it echoes comments made by police themselves following the publication of Setting the Record – SCD9’s attempt to estimate the number of sex trafficked persons in England and Wales – which found no cases of sex trafficked Africans but which explored only brothels. This suggests SCD9 failed to respond to those comments after the 2010 report.
Commenting in the Guardian, Georgina Perry, who manages the Open Doors NHS project helping sex workers in East London, said:
There has been a sharp increase in raids and brothel closures in the Olympic boroughs. As a result, women have been displaced to areas where they have no access to support and services. The police approach has been very heavy handed and mistrust and fear of them amongst sex workers is at an all time high.
Women are terrified to report violent crimes that take place against them for fear of being arrested. This situation neither helps to bring real criminals to justice nor gives intelligence that may combat trafficking.
Much like the Poppy Project’s radical feminist initiatives, SCD9’s approach in the capital could have come straight out of How to Make Enemies and Alienate People, it seems, with brothels that had caused no complaint whatsoever closed hither and thither, denying those within their workspaces and scattering them to the four winds.
The report, commissioned by the London Mayor and written by Assembly member Andrew Boff, makes key recommendations on how the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) should deal with sex workers. It says it should:
- follow Merseyside’s successful example and label crimes against sex workers ‘hate crimes’
- send out a strong public message that sex workers safety will be prioritised and that violence against sex workers will lead to prosecution
- prioritise the safety of sex workers over lesser crimes related to sex work. “This should mirror the successful victim support and policing carried out by the MPS Sapphire unit, where the rape of the victim is prioritised.”
- recognise that a code of conduct for dealing with sex workers would be a “useful tool”
- create ‘prostitution liaison police officers’ in the force to work in boroughs where sex work related crime is most acute. “… it is imperative that they do not have an enforcement role in this specific area.”
- review London projects that support sex workers to ensure there are enough resources
- work “much more closely” with sex work service providers, and “ensure that there is adequate training for projects and sex worker organisations to assist in third party reporting.”
- review the ‘Ugly Mugs’ scheme in London (which is used to warn of ‘bad dates’) to allow it to be formally used as a source of intelligence
On sex trafficking, the report calls for an evidence-based peer-reviewed study of the phenomenon in London and for SCD9 to attempt to establish trust and rebuild relationships both with sex workers and support organisations and with borough police forces. It also calls on the MPS to investigate the plight of trafficked African women in closed markets.
“There needs to be a joint strategy and effective partnerships between police work, sex work projects and sex workers,” it says. “The inclusion of sex workers should be seen as an integral part of any police force’s sex work strategy.”