The laws passed relating to prostitution passed in the dying days of the last government and enacted just before the election were enacted primarily to combat a supposed massive problem of sexual trafficking.
I have spent the past fourteen years investigating the British sex industry from the point of view of preparing numerous guidebooks and now a website covering all aspects of it, most notably eleven editions of the McCoy’s British Massage Parlour Guide. In fact I discovered after the legislation was passed that my book had been used by the Home Office in assessing the scale of sex trafficking in Britain.
See Page 17 of the Home Office report covering this issue.
In it the total number of ladies that I indicate are working at massage parlours throughout Britain outside London is taken as an underestimate on a scale of 1 to 4.5 of the true number of ladies working in the sex industry, since they decided without asking me how, that I had underestimated the figure for London by that scale when compared with the Poppy Project’s figures. The Poppy Project is an organisation funded by the government to combat sex trafficking and who do their estimates purely by phone and only within Greater London. They obviously have a vested interest in maximising the scale of the trafficking problem. On the other hand I have spent two or three days each week on the road for the past fourteen years, visiting every corner of this island from Bodmin to Aberdeen.
My figures for London were underestimates, not because they were in any way inaccurate, but because I was only considering ladies working from commercial premises and in 75% of London boroughs, including nearly all those in South, Central and West London, such establishments are simply not tolerated by the local council. That is not the case in most other British cities, where most sex workers work from commercial premises purporting to be massage parlours. Furthermore they simply added the total number of ladies working at each parlour outside London and assumed that that total, because I had “underestimated” the total number of ladies working in London, needed to be multiplied by 4.5, to get an accurate total.
In fact many ladies each week work different days at different parlours, so adding my figures up, I indicate in my book for each parlour how many ladies one will find there on any day and how many work there in all, was counting many ladies twice or even sometimes three or four times over. I even know of one lady who at one time worked a different day at a different parlour in Manchester every day of the week. She was admittedly an extreme case, but lots of ladies work at two or three parlours, so the Home Office estimate for the scale of indoor sex workers should have taken my figures and reduced them, not increased them by a factor of 4.5. This figure was then used in a further distorted manner to estimate the total scale of trafficked women women working in the sex industry.The claims of some Labour MPs, such as Dennis McShane or Fiona MacTaggart were ludicrously exaggerated. They might even be termed McShaneism or McTaggartism, they are so akin to McCarthyism.
Consequently it hardly surprised me that the Police could find so few trafficked women when they embarked on the two Operation Pentameters. What did surprise me in retrospect was that the Home Office despite using my figures, never asked me to comment on them before they used them to come up with their ludicrous overestimate.
Then again one has to remember the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman is on record saying she wants to see an end to prostitution and when one considers the recent case of Professor Nutt, I sense the last government was not interested in facts, but in simply pandering to what the leader or deputy leader of the Labour party wants. The fact that the Metropolitan Police have had little success in finding trafficked women bears this out. The police may be incompetent, but they are not that incompetent.
Most people running massage parlours want to stay on the right side of the police and that means they realise they need to do their best to stay clear of drugs, illegal aliens, under age girls and coerced or trafficked women. I have even been given a letter which was distributed to parlours in Stoke-on-Trent by the local vice squad spelling this out. The vast majority follow these guidelines and while some have problems telling if a lady takes drugs, they can easily tell if a woman has been trafficked.
And while I accept there is a small problem of trafficking, mainly at the small percentage of those establishments which are run by people from the Far East or Eastern Europe, it is my experience that the vast majority of the ladies who work behind closed doors in this industry are British, particularly once you get outside London, and enjoy making the reasonable income they can from it. Many also claim social security and pay no taxes and that needs to be addressed as the hidden economy taskforce has been doing recently, but if the powers that be are to start taking a good chunk of their earnings, which they did not do before the year 2000, it would only seem fair to not put them in danger of arbitrary arrest, possible imprisonment and confiscation of all their assets at the same time. Furthermore the existing laws continue to put ladies in danger of their lives, by making their only legal manner of working, working alone.
The laws relating to prositution are capriciously observed in different areas and variously enforced by different police forces. The contrast between Bradford and Ipswich the scenes of the latest two horrific cases of multiple murders of prostitutes is particularly interesting.
In Bradford, the local paper, the Yorkshire Evening Post, which even boasted a massage hotline a few years ago, pulled all its adult adverts at Harman’s urging a few years ago. In Ipswich the local paper, the East Anglian Daily Times, continues to carry adult adverts.
In West Yorkshire despite it having experienced the Yorkshire Ripper in the 1980’s, the local police have been cracking down on both the street scene and the massage parlours. In 1996 when I started, Bradford boasted nine parlours, it now has two.
By contrast in Ipswich, while the police have virtually eliminated the much smaller street scene they have left the parlours alone, unless they have been behaving outrageously. Two packed up when the hidden economy taskforce turned up, but overall there as many now as there were in 1996.
In Ipswich, Wright killed his victims over a relatively short period of time and was caught relatively quickly. In Bradford, by contrast with more punters frequenting the streets because their regular parlour had closed down and they could not tell from the local paper where to go now, more men have been visiting the red light area, the police drove the girls into the alleys and back streets and the recent killer was only caught when he was fool enouigh to carry out a killing on CCTV after he had killed who knows how many ladies. In my view Harman’s pressure which led to this change of policy on the part of the West Yorkshire Police is primarily to blame for some of these killings. She has blood on her hands.
David Cameron was sensible to suggest that brothels should be allowed to operate. They can be licensed and located in industrial areas, thereby not causing any problems with the houseowners anywhere and bearing in mind the recent case of Claire Finch, the population as a whole is now ready for this.
I tried to get some explanation of why they used my figures in such a distorted way, but they were not interested in treating me with any respect. I look forward hopefully to being pleasantly surprised by the Coalition’s rsponse to my suggestion and if anyone from the Home Office would like to discuss with me my extensive understanding of the sex industry and how it can be regulated to everyone’s benefit. i would be happy to oblige.
Finally even the Police wonder if the recent laws making it a crime for a man to have sex with a trafficked woman, even if he had no knowledge of her situation is violating his human rights and did not particularly wnat these laws passed.
Anthony Lewis a.k.a. George McCoy