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 Newquay lap dancing bar can no longer provide nude adult entertainment, following a review of its licence by Cornwall Council and town police.
The review into the licence of Divas Lap Dancing Club, on Gover Lane, heard how the club had broken rules on a number of occasions, including the employment of a 17-year-old girl as a dancer, the flagrant breaking of the three-foot rule as
well as extremely positive tests for cocaine being used in the club's toilets.
In the meeting, which lasted more than six hours, police showed footage taken from an officer's head-cam and questioned one of the club's licence holders about the rule breaking.
The club has 21 days to meet the new rules, but could choose to appeal against the decision. Should an appeal be lodged, the club will be able to continue as a lap dancing club until a decision has been reached.
The news comes just months after Divas had the three-foot rule – where dancers were not allowed to go within three feet of customers - imposed on it by Liskeard Magistrates Court.
Nutters in Bristol's Old Market have launched a campaign to stop permission being given for a lap dancing club in West Street.
They have signed a petition to object against planning consent for the premises near the corner with Waterloo Street.
Councillors will decide at a planning committee on Tuesday whether to give permission.
Resident Janet Sheek said: It's wholly inappropriate to have a lap dancing club in a residential area and in a high street. If the city council wants this, then they should provide an entertainment park somewhere else where people would have
to drive to and drive away from. There are a lot of families that live around here now and parents should not have to explain to children, who would have to walk past this place on their way to school, what goes on inside. How can you expect
anyone to pop out for a pint of milk at night when horny and intoxicated young men are roaming around on the street. It's wrong.
Ches Chesney, secretary of the Old Market Community Association, said the number of people living in the area had more than doubled in the past eight years. It's a residential area and should be considered in those terms, he said. His
petition currently has about 300 names.
Campaigner Trish Davidson, founder of the website Unchosen which fights human trafficking, said lap dancing clubs should be illegal. She said: How can we get across to young men on stag dos and businessmen that this is not a good way to
entertain themselves and that women suffer from their growing need to go to these clubs. Without demand, there would be no successful clubs.
The application, by Essie Zadeh, who is understood to run The Olive Tree bar at 90 West Street, is for a change of use to turn the former shop at 42-44 West Street, into a restaurant and wine bar by day and a lap dancing club at night.
Planning officers are recommending approval and say in a report to councillors that the application meets with planning guidelines. They said licensing laws, not planning regulations, deal with public safety, prevention of crime and disorder and
public nuisance, and protection of children. The report says: The licensing process allows for a raft of additional, far more detailed conditions to be attached that regulate such drinking and entertainment activities on an ongoing basis until
the licence is rescinded.
Zadeh said he saw no harm in setting up the lap dancing club. There are 52 empty shops in the street at the moment. This will help to improve its prosperity. It's a commercial street, not residential.
Plans for the lap dancing club were turned down. The decision by councillors to refuse consent came after an astonishing turn of events at a planning committee meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, the chairman, Councillor Alex Woodman (Lib Dem, Cabot) had spelt out to the campaigners that the application could not be refused on moral grounds – they could only consider the planning issues.
Planning officers told the committee there were no planning policy grounds to refuse permission. But as the debate wore on, it emerged councillors were against the plan and their only difficulty was to find the grounds to turn it down.
The chairman moved refusal, saying: I would rather this go to appeal and tested rather than simply nodding it through. The councillors agreed by 5-2 votes to refuse on the bollox grounds that the plan failed to contribute to the vitality
of Old Market and contribute to its regeneration.
The applicant, Old Market businessman Essie Zadeh who runs the Olive Tree mediterranean bar in West Street and who attended the meeting said afterwards he would definitely appeal the decision.
The appeal might take some months to complete by which time a new Crime Bill is likely to have been passed which will give local authorities tougher powers over lap-dancing clubs.
Oxford City Council granted a licence for lap dancing and pole dancing sessions to be run at the Thirst Lodge in the city, outside St Ebbe's Church.
The Revd Vaughan Roberts said the venue was inappropriate because of its proximity to the church, some 50 yards away. He said: We wouldn't be keen on such a premises anywhere, because we think it degrades God's gift of sex and degrades
women, making them objects to be ogled at.
We feel quite strongly that if you are going to have such an establishment, however, the place the chain has chosen to put it is quite inappropriate. To get such a licence these days, you need to do no more than if you wanted to hold a tea
dance for pensioners.
Lap dancing and pole dancing sessions will be run at the venue, run by Greene King, in Pennyfarthing Place, off St Ebbe's Street.
The church had officially objected to the licence being granted before the council's licensing committee made its decision last night.
Roberts said a further concern was the site of the pub, which he described as one of the gateways into the university city. He added: The first thing you will see when you come into Oxford on the left will be the church, and on the right will
be this sex establishment. It's not what you want to see when you enter the city.
The church is still deciding whether or not to appeal the council's decision.
In the bleak midwinter
Labour wind made moan
Hatty stood hard as iron
Heart just like a stone;
Photographer Ben Westwood has attacked Labour's strip club laws in his latest foray into politics. He has accused Ministers of being too puritanical over nude performance.
He and a group of rubber-clad burlesque dancers are demonstrating at the home of Equalities Minister Harriet Harman, saying the art form is not part of the sex industry.
His campaign follows amendments to the Policing and Crime Act, passed this year, which handed powers to councils to close lap dancing and strip clubs.
Westwood said: The Labour government is too puritanical. First there was Jacqui Smith and now we have Harriet Harman saying sex is demeaning to women. There should be checks on clubs for things like sex trafficking, but stripping off for art
or stripping off for pleasure is a bit different from lap dancing.
He will dress as Father Christmas outside Ms Harman's south London home this month. He and the dancers will sing carols and give her a stocking containing nipple tassels, a sex toy and a book about sex.
A consultation is nearing its close supposedly getting peoples views on the transitional arrangements proposed by the Government before new lap dancing restrictions come into force.
Previously Linda Gilroy MP said: Lap dancing clubs and other similar venues should have to go through a rigorous and open application process to enable local people to have their say, and local authorities should have the power to reject such
The new legislation for lap dancing clubs will make it much easier for local communities to oppose an application to open such an establishment in their area. Local authorities will have the right to refuse a licence to an establishment if the
area is inappropriate, or if there are already too many such premises located in one area. Local authorities will also be able to impose a wider range of conditions on lap dancing clubs than they are currently able to.
The transitional period before the legislation comes into force will last 12 months and commence from April 2010. The period allows for existing and new premises to apply for licences, and for local authorities to consider those applications.
The consultation document can be found on the Home Office website, with details of where to send responses. The consultation closes on 14th December.
Police in London have launched an operation against people who leave calling cards for prostitutes in phone boxes.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police clubs and vice unit want to disrupt the trade in contact numbers for the capital's sex industry. They claim the cards are not just an intimidating eyesore but an offshoot of human trafficking, organised crime
Plain-clothes detectives have begun tracking carders who target boxes across the Westminster, Camden, Kensington and Chelsea areas.
At least 44 people have been arrested for distributing cards this year, an offence punishable with a fine or jail term.
Some of those found putting up cards have been handed anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) specifically banning them from entering phone boxes.
Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, who is leading Operation Cashleen, said details on cards can hand police vital information. He said: Dozens of explicit advertising cards in phone boxes is a visible representation of prostitution. This
creates unease and increases the fear of crime. If ignored the problem will grow unchecked.
A lap dancing bar in Pontefract cannot continue trading after retrospective plans to change the building's use were thrown out. Heaven, on Beastfair, opened for business last December after a revamp of the grade II listed building.
An application to change the use of the former wine bar was rejected by Wakefield Council's planning and highways committee despite being recommended for approval subject to a suitable shop front and entrance being installed.
Bollox 'concerns' that a lap dancing bar was inappropriate for a shopping area and the building had been painted a bright purple and blue colour, out of character with the street, were raised.
Councillor David Hopkins spouted: This is a shopping area, not a side street. One can easily expect to see a restaurant as it fits in with that sort of street scene. This is totally different – it's advertised as a lap dancing club. To have it
somewhere where families are, I think is totally wrong. If it was a wine bar it should be open and inviting, this is closed and restricted.
Reports to planners said the building's unauthorised change of use had removed its glazed shop front in favour of an enclosed wooden front to cover a stage from view, harming the town centre, listed building itself and conservation area enough to
justify a refusal.
Seven objections were made about work being carried out without consent, a lap dancing bar attracting the wrong type into town and it was inappropriate in a market town's conservation area.
The owners will also be made to return the front of the building back to its original state. A planning officer told the Express that Heaven's owners could appeal the decision but could not open the premises for lap dancing without change of use
A Macclesfield nightclub wants to bring lap dancing to the town centre for the first time.
Repent on Mill Street, a former church mission and Quaker meeting house dating back more than 100 years, wants to open the new members-only club by Christmas.
Objectors have until December 9 to lodge any concerns with Cheshire East Council. None had been received so far.
Co-owner Laura Hatton-Garside, who with husband Roy submitted the application for a change of licence on November 10, said on Tuesday, (November 24): This venture will be a members-only club and because of its location the inside of the club
will not be visible to the public. The two sections of the club, which has a licence to stay open until 4am, will be separated from each other.
Macclesfield town councillor David Neilson said: Considering the history of the building, which used to be a Quaker meeting house and the town mission, I think it's an inappropriate use. I think many people would be very, very distressed to
see it become this. Call me old-fashioned but that is not the place for it.
Town centre colleague, Coun Stephen Broadhurst, fears mixing alcohol and lap dancing could be a recipe for disaster . I think it's got to be very carefully run and disciplined. I'm not sure whether it fits in in Macclesfield. On the
other hand, if there's a demand for it then there's a supply for it.
And Inspector Gareth Woods, head of Macclesfield Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: As long as any premises are properly run, I haven't got any concerns. Historically, lap dancing premises present very few problems. Whether it is appropriate
isn't for me to answer.
A Cheshire East spokesman confirmed consultation would end on December 9 and said the licence change might need to go before a CEC licensing committee if objections were lodged.
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.
Nutters of a church in Oxford city centre have been 'stunned' by a new application for a lapdancing venue 20 yards from their front door.
In January, Greene King applied for a licence to run lapdancing and pole dancing sessions at Thirst Lodge, off St Ebbe's Street.
But the brewery withdrew its application after staff at St Ebbe's Church complained they did not want a lapdancing bar as a neighbour.
Greene King said at the time that the application had been withdrawn after listening to the concerns of their neighbours.
But now the brewery has submitted a similar application to Oxford City Council – and this time the bar in Pennyfarthing Place also wants to show films.
St Ebbe's vicar, the Rev Vaughan Roberts, said: Lapdancing is degrading for all those involved.
We would be concerned about a lapdancing club opening anywhere in Oxford, but all the more when it's on such a public thoroughfare and when it's next door to a building that is used every day of the week by children and young people. Would they
allow a lapdancing club to open next door to a primary school?
Church manager Mark Abraham said the latest application came as a shock, adding: Once again, Greene King did not tell us of their intentions, leaving us with very little time to object. To have a pub right on our doorstep promoting lap-
dancing would only serve to harm the Gospel at St Ebbe's and Oxford at large.
Abraham said: Lapdancing exploits women and that's contrary to one of the key messages our church is trying to put out. A lapdancing bar would really change the nature of the area and we think it could put people off coming to our church.
The public consultation period ended on Thursday.
Louisa Dean, a spokesman for the city council, confirmed the council had received the application, which is expected to be considered by the licensing committee at a date to be fixed.
The accounts for John Gray's Spearmint Rhino lap dancing clubs are out. It's not a pretty sight.
In 2007 he made profit of £390,000. Last year that collapsed to a loss of £1.9m, which, when you only have net assets of £490,000, is a lot of cash. The main problem is a £1.7m tax bill that Mr Gray is negotiating with HM Revenue and Customs.
What does this all add up to? Well, take this little gem from the auditors. The financial statements indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern.
A poster on a cycle rickshaw showed an image of a woman in underwear. The text stated Steam & Sun Londons only 5***** Massage Parlour Why waste your money in a $trip club........where you cant even Touch [sic] .
A complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive and unsuitable for display where it could be seen by children.
Steam & Sun said the ad did not feature any images of women very scantily clad or in sexually provocative poses, which they believed was common in ads for lap dancing clubs. They explained that the text of the ad merely highlighted a fact of
law: customers are unable to touch dancers in strip clubs. They said the ad appeared on a rickshaw that went around Central London on evening shifts.
Assessment Not upheld The ASA acknowledged that the image of a woman in underwear might seem distasteful to some consumers; however, we noted the image was not sexually explicit or unduly provocative. We also understood that some readers may find
the reference to touch[ing] a woman in poor taste, but noted that the claim was clearly linked to a massage service and, in that context, considered it was unlikely to cause offence. We considered that, if children saw the poster, they
were unlikely to understand any potential sexual connotations from the word touch . We concluded that the ad was therefore unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or be seen to be socially irresponsible.
For years ministers have insisted that thousands of women are being smuggled into Britain and forced into prostitution. But when police staged a multi-million pound operation to smash the gangs, how many traffickers did they find? Not one
The overblown language was more red-top tabloid than heavyweight Government announcement. Issued by the Home Office, the press release bragged about the success of the largest-ever police crackdown on human trafficking - one of the worst
crimes threatening our society .
Breathlessly it went on to detail how women were being brought to this country and then sold as commodities for the purposes of sexual exploitation .
But now, it continued, thanks to nationwide police operation Pentameter 2, a staggering 528 criminals involved in this abhorrent crime had been arrested.
At its core, this operation was about striking a blow against one of the most distressing aspects of serious and organised crime in this country - that of people-trafficking for sexual exploitation, said Dr Tim Brain, Chief Constable of
Gloucestershire and the man who headed the operation, announcing the figures in July 2008.
Also keen to weigh in with her observations was the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Pentameter 2 has been a great success, she said: I would commend all those involved who have made a real impact in rescuing victims and bringing to
justice those who exploit them.
As intended, the media lapped it up, encouraged by Dr Brain's claim that the number of trafficked sex workers in Britain was actually 18,000 - five times more than previous highest estimates.
No doubt the Home Office was delighted with the coverage its press release achieved. But not any more. Fifteen months on and those words have come back to haunt them with a vengeance.
Last month, an investigation by the Guardian newspaper disclosed what Pentameter 2 had really achieved - the conviction of not one genuine sex trafficker.
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.
A lapdancing club which employed a 16-year-old erotic dancer has been shut down after losing an appeal against closure. Claudia's on Central Drive hit the headlines in 2007 after breaking strict over 18s only rules.
CCTV evidence showed the girl – who worked at the club for one night – turned up for work in a basque, boots and g-string, danced until 4am and was served four pints of lager.
Manager Claudia Spotswood vowed to clean up their act and the venue was allowed to remain open. But in June it was revealed the club had again failed to keep records of the ages of its dancers and council bosses revoked its licence.
Inspectors also said they witnessed physical contact between dancers and clients during lewd dance sessions and alleged a doorman had been illegally employed.
The club remained open while their appeal went ahead, but magistrates have now ordered it to close.
Coun Peter Collins, who chaired a licence review panel, said the club had blatantly disregarded the rules and the licence was revoked.
ap dancers from across Britain staged a protest outside Parliament in London over plans to toughen licensing laws, saying thousands of jobs are at risk.
We are looking at over 30,000 unemployed women, said Chris Knight, spokesman of For Your Eyes Only, which has 139 clubs in the U.K. No other industry would have this legislation forced on them. It is to satisfy the moral minority; they
think we are the devil incarnate.
About 40 women gathered outside Parliament today, holding placards saying, we are not sex workers and keep your laws off our bodies.
I am not saying that the industry is perfect, said Donna Roper, 20, who has worked for two years at the Medusa club in Birmingham, central England. But nor are they -- look at their expenses claims, she said, gesturing toward
Parliament where lawmakers were embroiled in an expenses scandal over the summer.
God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Ben Westwood our Saviour
Was called upon this day,
To save us all from Harman's power
When we were gone astray
Ben Westwood, photographer and ardent protector of all things erotic, is planning a new campaign.
The eccentric son of the fashion designer Dame Vivienne stopped traffic this time last year by parading a chain gang of fetishist models (think leather bondage gear and plenty of whips) through central London to demonstrate against a ban
on extreme pornography under the Criminal Justice Act. Now he hopes to pull off a similar stunt in protest at a perceived government threat to burlesque dancing.
Recently, several councils have considered reclassifying the stylised dance form alongside stripping and lap-dancing for licensing purposes. The matter, which has attracted discussion in the House of Lords, has caused dismay among the burlesque
Westwood hopes to galvanise support for his cause by organising a float of erotic Christmas carollers to serenade the Women's Minister, Harriet Harman, at her London home in December.
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.
The UK's biggest ever investigation of sex trafficking failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution in spite of hundreds of raids on sex workers in a six-month campaign by government departments, specialist agencies and
every police force in the country.
The failure has been disclosed by a Guardian investigation which also suggests that the scale of and nature of sex trafficking into the UK has been exaggerated by politicians and media.
Current and former ministers have claimed that thousands of women have been imported into the UK and forced to work as sex slaves, but most of these statements were either based on distortions of quoted sources or fabrications without any source
While some prosecutions have been made, the Guardian investigation suggests the number of people who have been brought into the UK and forced against their will into prostitution is much smaller than claimed; and that the problem of trafficking
is one of a cluster of factors which expose sex workers to coercion and exploitation.
Acting on the distorted information, the government has produced a bill, now moving through its final parliamentary phase, which itself has provoked an outcry from sex workers who complain that, instead of protecting them, it will expose them to
When police in July last year announced the results of Operation Pentameter Two, Jacqui Smith, then home secretary, hailed it as a great success . Its operational head, Tim Brain, said it had seriously disrupted organised crime networks
responsible for human trafficking. The figures show how successful we have been in achieving our goals, he said.
Those figures credited Pentameter with arresting 528 criminals associated with one of the worst crimes threatening our society . But an internal police analysis of Pentameter, obtained by the Guardian after a lengthy legal struggle, paints
a very different picture.
The analysis, produced by the police Human Trafficking Centre in Sheffield and marked restricted , suggests there was a striking shortage of sex traffickers to be found in spite of six months of effort by all 55 police forces in England,
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together with the UK Border Agency, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the Foreign Office, the Northern Ireland Office, the Scottish government, the Crown Prosecution Service and various NGOs in what was
trumpeted as the largest ever police crackdown on human trafficking .
Arrests announced but never happened
Arrested but released without charge
Arrested but released after caution
Charged, non trafficking, not convicted
Charged, non trafficking, convicted
Charged, trafficking offences, not convicted
Convicted, transporting willing sex workers
Convicted, transporting coerced sex workers
Total reported arrests: a great success !
The analysis reveals that 10 of the 55 police forces never found anyone to arrest. And 122 of the 528 arrests announced by police never happened: they were wrongly recorded either through honest bureaucratic error or apparent deceit by forces
trying to chalk up arrests which they had not made. Among the 406 real arrests, more than half of those arrested (230) were women, and most were never implicated in trafficking at all.
Of the 406 real arrests, 153 had been released weeks before the police announced the success of the operation: 106 of them without any charge at all and 47 after being cautioned for minor offences. Most of the remaining 253 were not accused of
trafficking: 73 were charged with immigration breaches; 76 were eventually convicted of non-trafficking offences involving drugs, driving or management of a brothel; others died, absconded or disappeared off police records.
Although police described the operation as the culmination of months of planning and intelligence-gathering from all those stakeholders involved , the reality was that, during six months of national effort, they found only 96 people to
arrest for trafficking, of whom 67 were charged.
Only 22 people were finally prosecuted for trafficking, including two women who had originally been rescued as supposed victims. Seven of them were acquitted. The end result was that, after raiding 822 brothels, flats and massage parlours
all over the UK, Pentameter finally convicted of trafficking a grand total of only 15 men and women.
Police claimed that Pentameter used the international definition of sex trafficking contained in the UN's Palermo protocol, which involves the use of coercion or deceit to transport an unwilling man or woman into prostitution. But, in reality,
Pentameter used a very different definition, from the UK's 2003 Sexual Offences Act, which makes it an offence to transport a man or woman into prostitution even if this involves assisting a willing sex worker.
Internal police documents reveal that 10 of Pentameter's 15 convictions were of men and women who were jailed on the basis that there was no evidence of their coercing the prostitutes they had worked with. There were just five men who were
convicted of importing women and forcing them to work as prostitutes. These genuinely were traffickers, but none of them was detected by Pentameter, although its investigations are still continuing.
The head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, Grahame Maxwell, who is chief constable of North Yorkshire, acknowledged the importance of the figures: The facts speak for themselves. I'm not trying to argue with them in any shape or form, he
He said he had commissioned fresh research from regional intelligence units to try to get a clearer picture of the scale of sex trafficking. What we're trying to do is to get it gently back to some reality here, he said: It's not where
you go down on every street corner in every street in Britain, and there's a trafficked individual. There are more people trafficked for labour exploitation than there are for sexual exploitation. We need to redress the balance here. People just
seem to grab figures from the air.
Update: Government Still Claiming Operation Pentameter a Success
A new system to identify and support victims has dealt with nearly 150 people in its first three months, Home Office Minister Alan Campbell announced today.
New figures from the national referral mechanism, established in April 2009 as a new system to identify and aid trafficking victims, show 40 children and 108 adults have been identified by UK Border Agency officers and police as possible victims
The statistics were revealed as the government signalled its continued determination to crack down on trafficking, including calls for a new EU-wide strategy to tackle the problem. The annual trafficking plan published today includes:
more international action to target trafficking at its source
more training for frontline officers and judges to help ensure more traffickers are caught and punished
a continued focus on the Olympics, to make sure work surrounding London's 2012 games remains free from the scourge of trafficking.
The Home Office Minister, Alan Campbell said:
The plan builds on anti-trafficking work over the last three years, which has seen the establishment of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, the successful national operation pentameter and the ratification of the
European convention on human trafficking.
Notes to editors:
Operation pentameter was launched in two waves over 2006 and 2007. The UK's largest ever clampdown on trafficking saw 255 victims identified, more than 750 arrests and more than £500,000 recovered. [...But
pentameter 2 didn't find a single trafficker]
Update: Nominated for the Erotic Awards 2010: Writer
Nick Davies was elected because of his ground-breaking piece in the Guardian on Tuesday, 20th October Inquiry fails to find single trafficker who forced anybody into prostitution .
Nick has won many awards. He has been named Journalist of the Year, Reporter of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year for his investigations into crime, drugs, poverty and other social issues. Hundreds of journalists have attended his
masterclass on the techniques of investigative reporting.
Stoke on Trent's latest lap-dancing club is to open its doors later this year - next door to a church.
Councillors approved plans for the Paradise Gentleman's Club, in Hope Street, Hanley, despite protests from nutters of the neighbouring Bethel Evangelical Church.
Businessman Chris Clegg, former owner of the Zanzibar nightclub in Newcastle, is to invest up to £200,000 in revamping the former Fusion Bar in an overhaul that will create around 10 jobs. Dancers working in the venue will be self employed,
meaning the 10 roles on offer are for bar staff, management, and security.
Neville Gould, trustee of Bethel Evangelical Church, said: It's totally incompatible to have a lap-dancing club next to a church. Would you let your children or grandchildren go to a youth club next to a lap-dancing club? We would have to
think about ending the club.
Gould added: We noticed an increase in problems after Bar 360 had a lap-dancing licence and those problems have not gone away and I fear the problems will increase again. We have experience of the problems that lap-dancing clubs result in.
There are four other premises in the Potteries with lap-dancing licences - ST1 and His And Hers, both located on Trinity Street in the city centre; Heaven and Hell in Burslem, which is yet to open, and 007 Gentleman's Club which is currently
closed. Lace Gentleman's Club in Newcastle has been operating since 2007.
Kat Banyard of the Fawcett Society told the Treasury select committee that city bankers' clients are often invited to meetings in lap dancing bars. City bankers entertain clients and try to generate business by offering trips to brothels, MPs
Kat Banyard of the feminist group the Fawcett Society told a Treasury select committee hearing into women's role in the City of London that there was a growing trend in the City to use prostitution to entertain clients.
We took extensive evidence from individual women who said it was becoming frequent for meetings to be held in lap dance clubs, and I also had women speak to me and say that prostitution was being used in client deals or in ways to generate
business - and that all of this culture created a very hostile environment, as you would expect, for female employees of those firms, she said.
One former City worker told the Fawcett Society said that when she worked in the Tokyo office of the same company, her London-based colleagues would often bring British colleagues over to Japan for sex trips , where they would tell the
company they were introducing clients to Japanese firms, but were actually visiting a number of seedy sex clubs.
It's a deeply troubling problem that needs to be discussed openly, Banyard said. If we're going to get more women into those institutions we need to change the culture before that happens.
There will be two more committee hearings, during which more evidence will be taken from people such as Harriet Harman, the minister for women and equality, and Trevor Phillips, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
A lap dancing club has avoided having its opening hours slashed despite police concerns over a string of violent episodes.
Instead, Angels Gentlemen's Club in West Bromwich has been ordered to stick to a number of conditions after a hearing by licensing chiefs.
The club was hauled before a panel after police said it wanted the club to close at midnight after a number of late-night assaults, including a fight that left one man with a fractured cheekbone and a vicious robbery.
In a separate incident, a member of staff had a baseball bat. But at yesterday's meeting an agreement was reached to allow the club to remain open until 4am on Friday and Saturday nights provided bosses stick to stringent new rules.
Customers must be scanned by metal detectors and searched by staff, while lighting and CCTV must be installed on the car park.
A record of door staff must also be kept, and groups of five people or more will be refused entry unless they agree to have details of their identification taken.
Richard McKay has refurbished his Solihull nightclub, The Opal Lounge, to accommodate a private members venue called Honey Club, which is due to open this month.
Mr McKay has run The Opal Lounge in High Street for six years. He said the area's night time economy had sometimes lost out to venues in neighbouring Birmingham, and hopes that by opening a lap-dancing club, he will increase the number of upmarket
, wealthy executives visiting Solihull for entertainment.
Solihull Council said it approved the application for a licence variation last year after the company met regulations informing the public of their intentions by posting notices on-site for 28 days as well as in the local press.
Maggie Throup, Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Solihull, said she felt the club was totally inappropriate for the area. She said: Solihull is a family town. If the owner says this will bring in more business then
I'm not sure it's the kind of business we would want. I think this shows the whole mess of the licensing and entertainment laws that have allowed something like this into a town like Solihull.
Councillor Michael Robinson (Conservative, Castle Bromwich) who chairs the Economic Development & Regeneration Scrutiny Board, added: Solihull has always welcomed new business enterprises into our town. Surprisingly, I find myself at odds
with what is being proposed here. I really do not believe an exotic dancing club is either desirable or appropriate for Solihull. From an economic point of view, encouraging more people into the town in the early hours of the morning could well
stretch our infrastructure to breaking point.
McKay defended his venture. He said: It's a misconception that this will be terrible for Solihull. It's going to bring people into Solihull and attract business people from the NEC. It's going to be an extremely safe environment.
It's not going to be seedy. It's actually going to be really nice. The private dancing will never be in the main area of the club, which will have a wine bar feel.
The new venue, decked out with chandeliers, Italian leather seating and a solid granite bar, will include a main area with a pole and a separate area with nine VIP booths.
The leader of Solihull Council has issued a motion opposing the opening of a new lap dancing club in the town centre.
Councillor Ken Meeson (Conservative, Dorridge & Hockley Heath) called for more legislative control to be given to local authorities after it emerged Solihull nightspot The Opal Lounge was to be rebranded as an exotic dancing venue called
Honey Club. Meeson said: Government legislation that allows lap dancing clubs open in a town like Solihull is just plain wrong.
Outraged members of Solihull Council have called for changes to licensing laws that they say meant an application for a lap dancing venue was approved without adequate consultation.
At last night's full council meeting members were told the licence variation for The Opal Lounge nightspot, soon to be rebranded as Honey Club , was granted by an officer via delegated powers and that even the committee's chair had no idea
about plans for the venue.
Bar those sitting on the licensing committee who were asked to abstain, the council voted unanimously to approve a motion issued by Conservative leader Ken Meeson demanding tighter laws around exotic dancing venues and more council control over
how licenses are issued locally.
Coun Meeson suggested members be issued a list of license applications, along the same lines as planning, noting: It's little wonder nobody knew what type of licence was being applied for. All the applicant had to display was a notice talking
about the live music, dance performances, alcohol and opening hours. Nobody seeing that would suspect what type of activity was being sought.
A number of councillors urged club owner Richard McKay to reconsider his plans for the premises, which were described as vile and another disastrous import from America .
A miserable Ulster town has said No to sex shops and strip clubs — even though no one is planning to open any.
Larne Council is taking no chances even though there are no proposals to bring an X-rated business to the harbour town or surrounding villages in east Antrim. Town Hall moral guardians passed a motion last week warning that sex establishments
would not be welcome in the area. By a majority, a motion was passed stating: Council would not be minded to consider positively an application for a sex establishment in the area .
Veteran Ulster Unionist councillor Roy Beggs — who proposed the anti-adult business motion — said it was about time to show that it's a sin to flaunt flesh. Adam and Eve covered up after the Garden of Eden, so I think these businesses
are completely inappropriate, the former east Antrim MP told Sunday Life. I wanted council to let them know that if they approached us they would not be treated favourably.
Party colleague Brian Dunn questioned whether the council had to powers to reject an application if a business passed legal requirements. At the meeting Cllr Brian Dunn asked: If someone wants to open a striptease club in Larne and they fulfil
all the requirements, surely we cannot refuse just because we don't want it?
Beggs' motion was carried by seven votes to three. Larne council also voted to abide by rules that state premises will not be used for striptease or entertainment which involves nudity without the approval of council .
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.