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by on March 20, 2012

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.”

  1. Ross permalink

    I post below a copy of a letter i wrote to Mr Boff after the reading the article in the guardian:

    Dear Mr Boff,

    I read todays article in the Guardian “sex trafficking investigations criticised” along with your Youtube video comments in relation to the silence on violence with great interest.

    I am / was the manager of a licensed massage parlour near Euston / Kings Cross.

    The business has been trading for nearly 40 years, There is a licence from Camden Council in place for Sauna, Steam room and Body Massage as well as a premises licence to sell alcohol in the basement bar, There is also a licence for a small private hire driver / operator. The business had been paying business rates, VAT, Corporation tax, PAYE etc of almost £1/2m per year.

    In the last 12 years that i have been here we have never had any troubles, i don’t think there was any occasion that we have had to call the police, we have a good relationship with our neighbours. The police have been to us on several occasions to ask for cctv footage from the front of the premises which we are always as helpful and efficient in supplying as possible. There have been several satisfactory licensing visits both by the police and council over the years. Our safety and fire alarm systems are top of the range & and we have a zero tolerance policy to drugs.

    Most importantly we feel that we provide the best possible working environment and facilities for our staff. Each massage room has panic alarms for the girls safety, we have 2 cleaners and security staff working all night along with the girls making sure that the facilities are clean, safe and hygienic. Our prices are set high in order to attract only the best clients, we also have a full time licensed door supervisor and a strict entry policy so that we do not allow anybody in that we feel may be abusive in anyway to any staff or other clients.

    We are completely against any form of trafficking, we often get girls looking or shall i say “sent” for a job whereby we feel that she may not be quite of her own free will, we have even had cases where two or three girls have come in with a “boyfriend” looking for work. All we can do in these cases is turn them away, if we were to make any reports to the police then like other cases in the press we would most likely end up being arrested ourselves for some other offence. Surely the best way of tackling this issue is to work with the massage parlours so that details of the suspect girls and any potential trafficking cases can be openly reported to the police and intelligence can be gathered.

    On 24th February 2012 our club was raided by the police as part of operation condor. Suspected evidence was found in 2 of the 8 rooms which we had busy at the time that the girls were offering sexual services. I have tried hard over the years to keep the place running as legitimately as possible but sometimes the girls offer things that they shouldn’t and it is hard for us to control what happens in every room, whilst at the same time looking after a successful bar and spa. I have never told the girls to offer anything other than a massage nor have i offered clients anything other than massage.

    Despite this, Myself along with the day and night receptionists, the bar tender and the door supervisor have all been arrested and kept in custody for over 20 hours along with some of our houses searched, we now face criminal charges under the sexual offences act for brothel keeping, money laundering offences and to top it all off, if convicted, we will face Proceeds Of Crime Act hearing in order to confiscate all our assets that we have worked hard for and paid tax on. my bank accounts and my business accounts have all been frozen by the payback unit,which means we can not operate our business nor pay any bills or our mortgages until the case is over which could be in 18 months time.

    Now i understand that the law is the law (albeit a 1956 law), and i should have been more in control somehow but during the raid we were not found to have been involved in any form of trafficking, no illegal immigrants were found to be employed, no drugs were found, no clients arrested, nobody was uncooperative with any officers etc. The raid involved at least 50 police officers, bearing in mind that this was the last friday of the month (payday) at midnight, which surely is a busy time for the police in london? They needed to take a separate police prisoner van (5) for each of us along with all the vehicles involved with transporting the police during the raid, they spent 5 hours in the building searching each person etc. not to mention 5 cells being full for 20 hours. And how many trafficked women did they find? NONE.

    My understanding is that because massage parlours are easy targets and under POCA police can get 50% of anything they seize. This is their real motivation and nothing to do with trafficking. As a (previous to this) taxpayer i was shocked at the absolute waste of resources that were put into this raid when the same results could have been achieved with 10 officers, not to mention all the other real crimes that were ignored that night due to lack of officers. Along with the costs involved in trying 5 separate people by jury (as we will not be pleading guilty) and their legal aid bill.

    I really do feel that in 2012 there should be a decisive debate about this and in times of austerity when the government is making £1/2m in tax from one company alone and not one single person is being harmed, to take that away and make several people criminals, unemployed & unemployable & thus most likely to be forced to claim benefits. That is along with all the 30 masseuses (some of whom have been with us for several years) on our books that will have to work somewhere else and most likely in far worse conditions for far less money than before.

    I along with the local papers I’m sure, would be interested to know the cost of 50 uniformed officers and several panda cars along with 5 prisoner vans to be taken out of action for at least 5 hours on a busy weekend shift? as I’m sure, would be the several stabbing & mugging victims from the same night?

    I have many other comments on this topic, should you be interested. I do not expect you to interfere with any criminal investigations whatever their outcomes but as a member of the public and a tax paying citizen of london i feel that in times like these we should be using our limited resources much more efficiently and be targeting real criminals, not easy targets in order to make the statistics look good.

    With Thanks,


  2. Great to see at least one politician capable of (i) critical thought and (ii) intelligent engagement with sex workers. Also, your blog is excellent and useful!

  3. Livvy permalink

    We’re always conscious of safety; good to see an adult discussion of issues. PinkLondonEscorts

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