Policing and Crime Bill

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The Chairman: Two people have caught my eye: first, Mr. Whatton, who is involved with Manchester airport—he was more involved, and is now peripherally involved—and, secondly, the Opposition spokesman, David Ruffley. Would Mr. Whatton speak for literally 30 seconds, because we have got about 90 seconds left?
Dave Whatton: The issue of arms support at airports needs to be dealt with on a threat basis, and needs to be dealt with through the process, but it is appropriate at some airports. Something else is really important: we have talked about a large number of police officers and replicating BCUs. There are three airports that have large numbers of police officers present. At most of them, we are talking about 10s and 20s, but in Prestwick’s case, we are talking about moving from two police officers to nine, so I think that the word “large” is misleading in that context.
Q 19Mr. Ruffley: I have a simple question for Bob Jones about accountability. Are there any amendments that you would like to see made to these clauses on accountability that would enhance the accountability of the police to police authorities? Do those amendments exist? Will you send them in?
Bob Jones: We would suggest that there are a few that could be made to improve measures on appointments and reporting back, particularly of councillor members. Our major aspiration at the moment is to try to see whether there is any possibility of getting cross-party consensus on future arrangements, because we do not feel that the continued party-political debate about these arrangements is helpful to the police or community confidence in the police.
The Chairman: I thank our witnesses for their co-operation. It is about to strike 12 o’clock. I know that I speak on behalf of the Committee when I say that we are grateful for the full and frank answers that have been given to all questions. You may now leaves us and allow our next group of witnesses to join us. We are grateful to Sir Norman, Dave Whatton, Bob Jones, Robert Siddall and Ian Hutcheson. The evidence has been valuable.
12 noon
The Chairman: I welcome the second group of witnesses to come before us this morning. I welcome Denise Marshall, the chief executive of the Eaves POPPY project, Frances Brodrick, assistant chief executive of the Eaves POPPY project, Niki Adams, the spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes, Hilary Kinnell, co-vice chair of the safety, violence and policing group from the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, Kathy Evans, the project policy director of the Children’s Society and Sandrine Levêque, the campaigns manager of Object. To assist everybody, perhaps each person will give their name and explain who they are.
Sandrine Levêque: My name is Sandrine Levêque and I will speak on behalf of Object and the Fawcett Society.
Kathy Evans: I am Kathy Evans, the policy director for the Children’s Society and a member of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice.
Hilary Kinnell: I am Hilary Kinnell and I represent the UK Network of Sex Work Projects.
Niki Adams: My name is Niki Adams and I am from the English Collective of Prostitutes, which co-ordinates the Safety First coalition.
Frances Brodrick: I am Frances Brodrick from Eaves and the POPPY project. We work with women who have been trafficked into the UK.
Denise Marshall: I am Denise Marshall, the chief executive of the Eaves POPPY project.
The Chairman: Thank you. I will go to Her Majesty’s official Opposition to put the first question.
Q 20Mr. Ruffley: Ms Adams, to give a scale of the problem, could you estimate how many prostitutes in the country are controlled for gain—that is a term used in the Bill?
Niki Adams: You have hit on the first big problem with the legislation. “Controlled for gain” has a wide definition. People working in the sex industry are no more likely to be controlled for gain than any other worker in the UK. The definition that Fiona Mactaggart said the Government would use, in the Second Reading debate, was that they would require compulsion; but you can see from the definition of “controlling” in the Bill, plus the definition used in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, that it in fact would include any woman working in any situation where there was a work rota; workmates could be criminalised under it.
We have seen prosecutions of women; we are actually working with a woman at the moment whose case is coming to court. She is the mother of four young children, who was working with another woman in premises, and is being prosecuted for controlling. We have, here, some women from Soho who work in flats with maids. They were raided in December and threatened by the police with being prosecuted for controlling, when they are the first line of defence for working women against violent attacks and exploitation. I hope that you will give them an opportunity to speak and will hear evidence from them.
The Chairman: I am afraid only those who have been asked to come as formal witnesses can address the Committee. I have no doubt that you will be able to speak on behalf of those for whom you have just replied. I am sorry; those who are not registered with us as official witnesses cannot give evidence.
Q 21Mr. Ruffley: You are confirming that the definition is very wide, and can catch a large number of people.
Niki Adams: Yes, and already it is being used in that way, so what Fiona Mactaggart said in the Second Reading debate in fact is not true; we have already seen prosecutions, and prosecutions for controlling under the 2003 Act have actually gone up significantly since 2003 when the definition was changed. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has enabled the police to claim 25 per cent. of the money, assets and other resources collected at the time of arrest and after prosecution, and we think the Act is a big motivation for the increase in raids and prosecutions in this area.
The Chairman: I can help Niki Adams. I have just given advice on what is permitted at this Committee sitting, but there is nothing to prevent your colleagues from submitting written evidence to the Committee. Such evidence, as long as it is acceptable, not in offensive language and is appropriate to the Bill, will be circulated. If your colleagues would like to give evidence they can, but, sadly, it has to be in writing.
Q 22Mr. Ruffley: On how the clauses might operate in practice, it has been suggested to some members of the Committee that it would not be easy to enforce them, because quite a lot of women who were being forced into this industry would not give evidence, to put it bluntly, against a pimp or someone who was controlling them. They would be scared of being brutalised or attacked if they gave evidence to the police or the Crown Prosecution Service. From what you are saying, that does not seem to be so much of an issue. Enforcement is happening, from what you just said.
Niki Adams: Yes, that is very much the case, because it is being used against people who are involved in consensual sex. There is not any force and coercion present, but those are the people who are primarily being prosecuted under both the controlling legislation and also, unfortunately, under the trafficking legislation, which, in the UK, also does not require force and coercion to be proved. A woman in our network who is from Brazil and who has been here for 25 years running premises that everyone accepted were a safe and good environment for women to work in was prosecuted for trafficking and sentenced to three years in prison. She nearly lost custody of her young son, and is now facing deportation. She had her life savings, her house, her car and all her possessions confiscated. The law is being used in that way to prosecute people who are involved in consenting sex.
The figures that have been used to justify the proposals—the figures on trafficking—are false. They have been discredited in many academic studies including on a recent radio 4 programme, where they showed that the figure that was widely being used—that 80 per cent. of women working in the sex industry in the UK are trafficked—actually came from POPPY project research that found that 80 per cent. of women in the sex industry are immigrant women. There is a very big difference between being foreign and being forced, which is what the programme concluded.
Q 23Mr. Ruffley: But paying for sexual services from a person who is controlled for gain will be an offence. May I just give you this scenario? If a man understands that seeking and using the services of a woman who has been trafficked is a strict liability offence and he will be committing an offence, in practice, if he knows the law, he might say to the woman, “Have you been trafficked or are you controlled for gain?” Let us just imagine that scenario. It seems that there is no incentive whatsoever for the woman concerned to answer that question truthfully because if the man asks the question, she will understand that he knows the law. If she says, “Yes, I have been trafficked,” the first thing the man will do in all likelihood is say, “Okay, I’m not going to commit an offence; I’m going out the door.” The woman will then lose the money.
It seems almost impossible to conceive of a sex worker—a female—answering that question truthfully because the minute she does so she loses business and, if she has already been brutalised, she will face heaven knows what consequences for losing trade and money. What are the chances of women answering that question truthfully?
Niki Adams: The problem is that the figures on how many women are trafficked are distorted. Where women have been trafficked or are facing rape, violence or other kinds of coercion, the question is what will best help them escape from that situation and get the help that they need. Criminalising them and their clients is certainly not going to help. What does help, as has been shown in New Zealand, is decriminalisation, which has enabled women to come forward, report violence and get help in many different areas. The New Zealand experience has not been looked at properly by this Government and, in fact, was reported falsely in the debate on 19 January, when it was said that what New Zealand has done was legalisation, which is not true. Fiona Mactaggart claimed that there had been an increase in the number of people working in the sex industry. In fact, a substantial and thorough recent Government review found no increase in the number of women in prostitution. They found that women were more able to come forward to get help and that conditions were less exploitative in the brothels in which women worked.
In response to your question, the crucial issue is what most helps women to escape from violent and exploitative situations. The legislation will do nothing to help that, and will actually force prostitution further underground and make it harder for women to be public and get help.
The Chairman: Mr. Ruffley, I think that Niki Adams mentioned the POPPY project in one of her answers relating to statistics. Do Frances Brodrick or Denise Marshall want to come in on the question?
Q 24Mr. Ruffley: Sir Nicholas, you have asked my question for me. If I could ask for a response to those points?
Denise Marshall: I think that Niki Adams said that the Radio 4 programme claimed that 80 per cent. were foreign nationals and were therefore trafficked. Unfortunately, we cannot control the media. What we said in our report “Sex in the City” was that 80 per cent. of the women were foreign nationals and that we believed a significant proportion of them were trafficked. We did not say that they were all trafficked; we have not claimed that. We do not know the figures. We were able to show that around 80 per cent. in off-street sex commercial establishments were foreign national women, but we did not claim that they were all trafficked.
Niki Adams: The problem has been that, for example, in relation to Soho, which is one of the areas where the sex industry is less underground and where it is easier to see what is going on, even the police said for many years that 80 per cent. of women there were being trafficked. One of the women here today works in Soho. She is from Hungary. Her father died when she was younger and she is here supporting her son and her family back home. That is the most common average situation of women working in the sex industry. Some 70 per cent. are mothers who have gone into prostitution to support their families and other people in the community. We are in an economic recession, and more women will be forced into prostitution to survive. The legislation will do nothing to help women get safe working conditions or survive in that way. What it will do is actually force prostitution underground and make it worse—more dangerous.
Q 25Mr. Ruffley: This is my final question. May I ask the representatives of the POPPY project whether they think that the clauses as drafted—predominantly those relating to the strict liability on men—are going to choke off demand and help to solve the problem through the straightforward criminalisation of the punter, so to speak? Do you think that that is going to work?
Denise Marshall: We think that the Bill does not go far enough. We think that women should be decriminalised and do not understand why that is not part of the Bill. But, yes, we do think that men should be criminalised.
Q 26Mr. Ruffley: Do you think that the proposal will drive down the number of men seeking sexual services and paying for them?
Frances Brodrick: Absolutely. We think that it will have the really big effect of making men think about their responsibility for funding the sex industry and the growth of that industry. We also think that it will also make them examine their responsibility for the further exploitation of women who have been controlled for gain.
Denise Marshall: Interestingly, in the time we have run the POPPY project, we have had 22 referrals from punters—from those buying sex from trafficked women. They made the referrals because the women were in an obvious physical and emotional state of distress. That sounds good on the surface until you realise that all the 22 men had sex with the trafficked woman before they phoned us. These are trafficked women whom we have taken into our projects and whom have given evidence to us in statements. All those men, knowing the women were trafficked, had sex before phoning us to help the women to get out of their situation.
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Prepared 28 January 2009