From your research of the Metropolitan Police, can you tell me how they are dealing with crimes committed against people in prostitution/sex workers?
Some police, and indeed some boroughs and units in the MPS, are doing a great job. However unfortunately, it takes just one bad officer to disproportionately damage relations between sex workers and police.
What concerns were raised in your report?
One of the concerns in my report, Silence on Violence, was that there was consistent evidence that police had been proactively raiding sex establishments without complaints or significant intelligence that exploitation was taking place.
Can you explain how this affects people in prostitution/sex workers when a crime is committed against them?
NHS projects had noted that ‘brothel’ raids and visits had led to the displacement of sex workers away from their support networks, which led to their lives and health being at increasing risk. There is another concern – that when police resources are stretched, should police be visiting establishments advertised in phone boxes, using seven officers a time?
How do you believe people in prostitution/sex workers are treated by the police? And do they report crimes committed against them?
Some sex workers in London feel that when they report crimes, police focus on their crimes related to sex work – such as having a ‘brothel’ – over the crimes they originally reported against them. I have seen several cases like this in London. As a result of this belief in the sex industry, sex workers have told me they feel that they cannot safely report crime to the police.
The service providers I spoke to, who work with sex workers, all said that they had noticed a decline in the number of sex workers reporting crimes to police. Furthermore, some sex workers have felt that the police have not treated them with dignity and respect when they have come into contact with the law. Indeed, I know of a recent case like this – where a sex worker’s earnings were, I believe, unfairly seized – where a sex worker reported to me that the police treatment she experienced was “degrading and humiliating”.
What are your thoughts on the Merseyside model? Should it be adopted by the Metropolitan Police Force?
The best policing model I found to tackle this lack of reporting was in Merseyside. This included labelling attacks against sex workers as hate crimes as a way of acknowledging that they were a minority who were disproportionately targeted by criminals. I recommended, in Silence on Violence, that London should follow Merseyside’s successful example and label crimes against sex workers as ‘hate crimes’.
Please support our petition on Change.org to make the Merseyside model the standard policing approach for the UK.