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PRESS RELEASE . . . . PRESS RELEASE . . . PRESS RELEASE . . .
Prostitution laws put sex workers at risk.
Ms Sheila Farmer is facing trial for brothel-keeping.
3 January, 10.30am, Croydon Crown Court
The Law Courts, Altyre Road
Croydon, Surrey CR9 5AB
For more info call 020 7482 2496/07811 964 171
On 3 January, Sheila Farmer is going to court charged with brothel-keeping. At the time of her arrest, Ms Farmer was working together with other women for safety. She had previously been viciously raped and attacked whilst working alone. She fell foul of the unjust prostitution laws which criminalise “two or more prostitutes living together or sharing premises for work.”
Why is this prosecution being brought? A week before she was arrested, police had visited the flat where Ms Farmer worked and confirmed that none of the women there were being forced or coerced. Ms Farmer always prioritised safety. At personal risk, despite threats and retribution, she appeared as a witness in court to ensure the conviction of an armed gang that had attacked hundreds of working women in the south of England.
In addition, Ms Farmer is seriously ill. She has been a diabetic since childhood and has a malignant brain tumour. Her doctor confirms that an onerous and stressful trial will exacerbate her condition.
Like thousands of other women, Ms Farmer is a mother trying to survive in harsh economic times. If convicted, Ms Farmer faces a seven year prison sentence and a criminal record, a major obstacle to her ever getting another job.
The Association of Chief Police Officers recently suggested New Zealand-style decriminalisation which has improved sex workers’ safety and rights. Why is that not being followed here?
Instead, safety is being undermined by prosecutions which deter sex workers from reporting violence. A gang of five men, have for several weeks, been robbing sex workers’ flats in East London. One group of women, who were threatened at knifepoint, courageously went to the police – and were promptly threatened with prosecution themselves. No action has been taken against their attackers despite good identification evidence being provided. Since then, another woman who was raped by one of the same gang has given information to the English Collective of Prostitutes but is refusing to report to the police for fear of arrest. The violence of this gang is escalating. How long before a woman is killed?
Under Proceeds of Crime law, the police keep 50% of assets confiscated during raids and 25% from subsequent prosecutions, with the Crown Prosecution Service keeping another 25%. Is this fuelling raids, arrests and prosecutions?
Sheila Farmer who is available for interview comments: ‘I believe strongly that women working as we were should be left alone. The laws are antiquated. I was earning money to pay for my cancer treatment. This moral crusade is making criminals out of women like me.’