High-class escort agencies are being targeted by police in a wider clampdown on online prostitution linked to money-laundering and people trafficking. The move, supported by ministers, opens up a new front in the war against sex workers who are
estimated to earn £1bn a year in untaxed revenues.
Critics of the crackdown complain that the police operations are heavy-handed and end in escorts being forced on to the streets or into brothels where they are at risk of violence and exploitation.
In the most recent case, detectives closed down an elite escort agency which worked with 30 women serving the commuter towns of Surrey.
Lorraine Morris, 28, who ran the Cloud Nine agency in Guildford, Woking and Camberley, told The Independent that she had had no problems with the police until her business was raided in October after one of the escorts had reported an assault.
She claims that the inquiry quickly switched from the allegation of assault to the activities of the escort agency. Police later raided the other women's homes, forcing the agency out of business.
British men have spent more than £4bn in 2009 on hush-hush sex behind their partners' backs – despite the global recession, a survey has found.
According to the OnePoll survey, men have splashed out £4.2bn this year on sexy extras such as strippers, phone sex, erotic magazines and online pornography – without revealing these naughty spending habits to their wife's or partners.
The poll also revealed that more than a million men bed a prostitute on a regular basis and over two million splash out on sexual thrills on stag dos and lads' weekends.
A spokesman for OnePoll, which polled nearly 4,500 men, said: The sex industry is clearly not being affected by the recession in any way. It seems men will find money to indulge in the world's most famous past-time whatever the economic
The poll found that British guys spent the most money in strip clubs. 29% of those surveyed visit strip clubs on a regular basis, with three trips a year emerging as the average. Blokes also fork out around £60 on each visit, leading to a
national spend of more than £1.5bn.
Adult downloads to mobile phones were the second-biggest expense of 2009, with 8% of men paying for porn images every month, leading to an annual spend of nearly £500m in 2009.
13% of men have membership to pornographic websites and download a collective total of £387m worth of adult content every year.
A lap-dancing club where rich clients could buy sex and drugs in the heart of London's West End has been shut down after a six-month operation, police said.
Vice squad detectives arrested seven people accused of helping to run the basement Capricorn Club and raided houses in London and Essex on Thursday.
Scotland Yard said the private-members' venue, close to the British Museum and the Oxford Street shopping district, catered for wealthy customers, including financial professionals and other white-collar workers.
Despite its small, nondescript entrance on Goodge Street, the club soon built a reputation and began to make large profits, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement: (The club) was known to its affluent clientele as a place where sex and
drugs were freely available, it added.
Newspapers said the club was a celebrity hangout, but internet reviewers said it was more a place , where customers pay large amounts to have a drink with a woman. Customers paid up to £250 to have sex inside the club or £300
to go to a nearby hotel, police said. They had to buy a bottle of champagne for £135 and could also get cocaine.
It is hard to believe that in the middle of a well-known area like Goodge Street, these shady dealings were blatantly going on, said Detective Inspector John Anderson, of the Metropolitan Police. This type of criminal activity is a
nuisance and a blight on the community.
Police arrested five men and two women. Eighteen women aged in their 20s and 30s who worked at the club were being interviewed.
UK courts are being prepared to handle
the new law
New measures to repress the public, increase police power and tackle crime and disorder were welcomed today by the Home Secretary Alan Johnson after the Policing and Crime Bill received Royal Assent.
New measures include the introduction of a mandatory code of practice for alcohol retailers, the creation of a new offence of paying for sex with a prostitute who has been coerced or deceived and the power for police and local authorities to
apply for injunctions against people involved in gang-related violence.
Further measures include:
Giving greater powers to Local Authorities to restrict the opening and regulation of lap-dancing clubs;
Strengthening police powers to deal with young people drinking alcohol in public;
* Lowering the number of times premises can sell alcohol to young people before incurring a penalty and toughening the penalties for those premises;
* Making sure that those subject to football banning orders in England and Wales are also banned from attending regulated football matches in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Increasing police powers to close premises associated with prostitution and pornography related offences for a set period;
Protecting vulnerable individuals by increasing the maximum duration of foreign travel orders, requiring those sex offenders banned from travelling anywhere abroad to surrender their passport, and increasing the penalty for the offence of
failing to provide access to suspected encrypted indecent photographs of children;
Increasing the efficiency of the Criminal Records Bureau, and make amendments to strengthen the working of the new Vetting and Barring Scheme.
Making a number of small amendments to clarify HM Revenue and Customs powers;
Strengthening the arrangements for recovery of assets obtained through criminal means;
Improving the efficiency of arrangements for judicial co-operation between UK and its international partners.
Enhancing inter-agency co-operation in establishing airport security arrangements with greater clarity of roles and responsibilities;
Introducing a systematic regular assessment of how threats to airports are being mitigated;
Enhancing airport security planning at UK airports both locally and nationally as Airport Security Plans will help ensure more effective deployment of resources to mitigate threats;
Bringing in a consistent funding process for dedicated police activities at airports that ensures police authorities are reimbursed by airport operators for agreed dedicated policing costs, in turn benefiting the taxpayer.
Roberta Blackman-Woods, the mean minded MP representing Durham, has welcomed the fact that the Policing and Crime Bill has passed its final parliamentary hurdle, with amendments between the two Houses of Parliament resolved.
The Bill contains provisions to restrict the licensing of lap dancing clubs, which Roberta campaigned for and persuaded the Government to include.
Blackman-Woods said : The new licensing regime will give local councils and local people far more of a say over the number and location of lap dance clubs in their area.
Despite Liberal Democrat amendments in the Lords supporting the lap dancing industry which would have substantially weakened the Bill, the Government held firm and made sure that local people would come first and that lap dance clubs would be
subject to strict but fair licensing arrangements. The Government has also announced that it is conducting a review of the whole issue of 'Temporary Event Notices' which is something I have been pressing for.
I will be urging Durham County Council to adopt the provisions and use the powers this Act will give it to as soon as possible.
Jenson Button isn't the only recent British winner of a major international trophy because Nice 'n' Naughty also kept the flag flying by winning the coveted European E-line award for Best Retailer of 2009. The good news was announced at a
prestigious gala dinner in Berlin attended by all the leading players in the European adult industry. This is the second year in succession that Nice 'n' Naughty has been recognised on the European stage, having been voted Best Retail Chain in
Nice 'n' Naughty directors, Simon Prescott and Trish Murray, received the award on behalf of the company. Afterwards a delighted Simon commented, I'm over the moon about this. In football terms, it's like winning the Champions League two years
running. Also like football, our business is a team effort and the people who deserve this accolade most are the Nice 'n Naughty staff. It's thanks to their professionalism and commitment that we're now being seen as a top retailer, not just
in the UK but also Europe. It's amazing when you think about the quality of the opposition we're up against. I'd like to dedicate this award to our staff and it was an honour to receive it on their behalf'.
Trish Murray also emphasised the importance of awards such as E-line from a customer perspective: Being able to show customers that we are recognised as the best in our industry gives them confidence that they are buying from a reputable and
professional company. We have always striven to create a welcoming and enjoyable shopping experience for all our customers, of both sexes and all sexualities. I feel that winning the E-line is an endorsement of our approach and an affirmation to
customers that, by shopping at Nice 'n Naughty, they're going to get choice, good value and friendly, helpful service'.
At a time of cutbacks in the industry, Nice 'n' Naughty has expanded its retail chain to 15 stores with branches in Manchester, Liverpool (2), Bolton, Warrington, Wigan, Southport, Chester, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Newcastle, Leeds, Bristol, Brighton
A report by The UK Insolvency Helpline Debt Advice Service warned the increase in high cost credit such as store cards, credit cards and door strep lending has put women at risk of joining the sex industry to pay of debts.
Thousands of women of all ages have started working in massage parlours, brothels and sex parties in an effort to make extra money to fight of the risk of bankruptcy. There are reports of women being able to earn up to £50 pounds for sexual
intercourse for 15 minutes work.
Research from The UK Insolvency Helpline Debt Advice Service states there is considerable evidence to suggest that such an increase in debt and the ease in becoming a prostitute have had an impact on this problem.
This new study from The UK Insolvency Helpline Debt Advice Service newspaper is in line with a previous study from the debt advice charity stating that One in four people who contacted a debt helpline last year admitted that some of their
financial problems were caused by spending money on sex, a report showed today.
The UK Insolvency Helpline said sex industry spending was now the third most common reason for people to get into debt after spending on drugs and alcohol, and shopping.
The group said a quarter of the callers aged between 25 and 49 it helped between January and September last year admitted they had paid to see pornography or visited a lap dancing club or brothel.
It said sex addiction could have a wide-ranging impact on people's finances, with some running up high levels of debt paying for prostitutes or visiting lap dancing clubs, as well as by subscribing to pornographic internet sites or running up
huge bills on premium rate telephone sex lines.
The Government have responded to the petition asking:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill 2008-2009 Section 25 to exclude any public performance or performance art from the act that involves the removal of clothing
that does not result in nudity as laid out in Section 25 and to exclude it from classification under the Sexual Encounter Entertainment License.
Under Section 25 of the proposed Policing and Crime Bill 2008-2009 Burlesque will potentially be eradicated due to the requirement of a Sexual Encounter Entertainment License even though there is no nudity in burlesque (as
described in section 25) it has been stated by certain boroughs already that the element of the removal of part of you clothing constitutes as stripping and therefore requires a license, although you are able to appear in front of an audience
partially clothed you are not allowed to remove any item of clothing in front of an audience in order to achieve this state without the aforementioned license. We would like this loop hole in the act removed to ensure that performances that
involve the removal of part of your clothing and do not result in nudity will not require licensing.
The Government's response:
Thank you for your e-Petition dated 6 May 2009 about the introduction of Clause 26 of the Policing and Crime Bill, and its impact on burlesque performances.
Clause 26 of the Policing and Crime Bill introduces a new category of sex establishment under Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 called sex encounter venue . The purpose of these
provisions is to give local people a greater say over the number and location of lap dancing clubs and similar venues in their area.
Whether or not a venue will require a new licence will depend on the nature of the entertainment provided. Only venues who offer a live performances or live display of nudity, which is of such a nature that it must be
reasonably assumed to be provided solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of the audience , will need to apply for a sex establishment licence. Therefore, as long as a burlesque performance does not fit
this definition a new licence will not be required. There is also an exemption for infrequent events.
The Government believe this is the correct approach to ensure the measures are properly targeted and address the real concerns of local communities.
Two people have been jailed after threatening an undercover policeman at a clip joint in Soho, central London. Had he been a genuine customer, he would have been another victim of what is a well-established scam.
Video footage captures a man throwing his wallet onto the floor and offering to pay anything to escape.
He shouts: What's the problem? I'll pay whatever it is ... what, £300? I'll pay, I'll pay ... take my wallet. I don't want to be hurt. Leave me!
Unfortunately for those fronting Twilights, this was an undercover policeman armed with a hidden camera and microphone and he had caught them red-handed.
Kingston Crown Court was told that in December last year, a man fled the bar, in Rupert Street, in fear of his safety after being threatened and ordered to pay £300.
Stacey Crossley and Agnieszka Wolowska have since been found guilty of blackmail and false imprisonment.
Crossley was jailed for three years and his co-defendant was locked up for 14 months and recommended for deportation to her native Poland.
They were arrested by uniformed police officers as the scammers chased the undercover officer outside.
The scam involves customers, often foreign tourists, being enticed inside hostess bars with false promises of adult entertainment , Westminster Council explained. The bars, known as clip joints, employ women to stand outside or near their
premises and bring the customers in for a small charge, in much the same way as other licensed bars and clubs employ staff to hand out leaflets promoting their offers. Once inside the clip joints, customers are served soft drinks, usually by a
pretty young woman. But when the customer goes to leave, they will usually find themselves faced with a charge of several hundred pounds for having been in the woman's company.
If they refuse to pay, the customer may be threatened with violence by bouncers or frog-marched to a cash machine and forced to hand over cash.
Part of the problem in the past was that clip joints exposed a legal loophole. They did not need a licence to operate because they did not serve food or alcohol or provide entertainment. But in September 2007 the London Local Authorities Act
reclassified clip joints as sex establishments, meaning they required the relevant licences, closing the loophole.
Councillor Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council's cabinet member for community safety, said: Today's hearing marks the end of a long battle to close down all known clip joints in Westminster which lured in men under the false premise of
adult entertainment, then charged them exorbitant rates for soft drinks in the company of so-called hostesses.
Most people who were ripped off were simply too embarrassed or scared to report the matter to police, and as these venues exploited legal loopholes to operate on the fringes of the law, our powers to close them down were extremely limited.
Liquidators have been appointed by Adult Group Entertainment (AGE) following a creditors' meeting. It has been announced that the company's principal asset - the stock contained in the nine Pillow Talk stores - was worth around £70,000 at
The liquidator intends to sell this as soon as possible - by close of business on Monday 5th October. The liquidator told ETO that the Pillow Talk shops, leases and licences are not included in the liquidation, as they are owned by third parties,
but fixtures and fittings and the Pillow Talk name and trading style are available.
A lap dancing bar is commendably allowing its dancers to have physical contact with their customers.
Divas Lap Dancing Bar, in Gover Lane, is using the ambiguous terms of their premises licence to allow contact between dancers and customers to continue.
The club was slapped with repressive operating conditions at a court hearing earlier this month - including the three foot rule, which prevents dancers from going within 36 inches of their clientele.
However, these terms only require the three foot distance to be maintained during a private performance, it has been discovered. Divas owner Alan Whitehead: The three foot rule only applies during a private performance and not in the rest of
the club. When the girls are not doing a private performance they are free to go and sit on a guy's lap - they are not breaking any rules.
The hearing at Liskeard Magistrates' Court in September saw Divas and their legal team lose out to Cornwall Council. The court appeal hearing had taken 11 months to get to court, after Restormel Borough Council originally imposed new conditions
on the club, following a review.
Despite volunteering 12 operating conditions, Divas disputed the three foot rule , which stated: There shall be no physical contact between the customer and dancer during their performance. Divas argued at the hearing that clubs
which operate under the three foot rule usually fail.
In a statement, Cornwall Council confirmed that Divas were operating within the law. The council were informed by the solicitor acting for Divas that they had obtained legal advice relating to the condition that was upheld by the court. It is
true that the condition does require that during the performance the performer will keep a minimum distance of three feet away from the customer. It was suggested that this is expressly limited to during the performance .
The Council has also obtained its own independent legal advice in response to this suggestion. Having sought advice, the council agrees that the three foot rule only applies during the performances.
The Police have been advised of this position and if they are of the opinion that the operation of the premises is undermining the licensing objectives then there is provision in the Licensing Act 2003 to apply for a review of the licence.
Harriet Hatemen, the minister for Intolerance and Inequality addressed the Labour Party conference and brought up the subject of her personal pet hate, prostitution:
And on prostitution. We know that prostitution is not work - it's exploitation of women by men - often women who have mental health problems or drug or alcohol addiction. So we're introducing a new criminal offence of
having sex with a prostitute who's being controlled by a pimp.
We're stepping up our action to tackle human trafficking. We're determined to ensure that, especially in the run up to the Olympics, international criminal gangs don't trick and abduct women from abroad and sell them for
sex in London.
And there is a very sinister development which we are determined to stop. You know trip advisor - a website where guests put their comments on line for others to see. There is now a website, like that, where pimps put women
on sale for sex and then men who've had sex with them put their comments on line. It is Punternet and fuels the demand for prostitutes. It is truly degrading and puts women at risk.
Punternet has pages and pages of women for sale in London. But Punternet is based in California so I've raised it with the US Ambassador to London and I've called on California's governor Arnie Schwarzenegger to close it
down. Surely it can't be too difficult for the Terminator to terminate Punternet and that's what I am demanding that he does.
Galahad, host of PunterNet has replied in an open letter:
Dear Mrs. Harman,
I have a few points to make regarding your recent remarks regarding my website and your fantastic demand that the Governor of California close it down.
Firstly, PunterNet is not violating any laws. If it were, then surely the many websites catering to the US prostitution scene (where sex for pay is almost completely illegal) would already have been closed down.
In the USA, there is a concept called freedom of speech which is considered the most important personal right guaranteed by the Constitution. It exists specifically to prevent the sort of abuse of power that you are
attempting. The Governor (indeed, even the President) has no authority with which to shut down a perfectly lawful enterprise such as PunterNet.
PunterNet was not the first, and is certainly not the only, website in the UK with the same subject matter. Rather than creating the demand for commercial sex, sites like PunterNet are a response to that demand, which has
existed since the dawn of mankind and certainly long before the advent of the Internet!
One of the missions of PunterNet is education - to provide information and guidance in hopes that the commercial sex scene is limited to consenting adults and those who choose of their own free will to engage in it.
If sites like this one did not exist, and if prostitution were outlawed, then it would effectively be handed to organised crime on a platter - just as happened with liquor during Prohibition. If, on the other hand, sexwork
is recognised as a legitimate, honourable profession, then there will be no market for the criminal elements, and the truly despicable aspects of the scene such as sex slavery and trafficking will die out. Surely that is a far more desirable
goal than driving it back underground where it will then consist only of criminals and victims?
In closing, I would like to thank you for the huge influx of traffic to my website which your actions have caused. I am sure that the ladies who are a part of the PunterNet community thank you as well, as they will no doubt
benefit financially from the many new clients who might otherwise never have found them.
Comment: Censorious authoritarian
2nd October 2009. From Alan
I suppose Harridan Hatemen's latest piece of nonsense is fairly typical of the woman.
Quite how a (rather good) young civil liberties lawyer has turned into a middle-aged censorious authoritarian baffles me.
So much for evidence-based policy, when the evidence conflicts with the predetermined victim feminist ideological line.
I should think that those running Punter Net could probably clap a writ for defamation on her, since some of her claims were blatantly false.