THE Priest-in-Charge of St Anne's, Soho, has strongly criticised
the Metropolitan Police, after a raid was carried out last December
on 18 brothels in the area.
The priest, the Revd Simon Buckley, described the police
operation as having been "ham-fisted", and also listed what he
called "unacceptable and at times unlawful behaviour", in a report
sent to the Bishop of London.
In his report, he wrote: "The safety and well-being of a section
of our community has been jeopardised by this operation. Those who
previously worked in the relative safety of the flats, and until 18
months ago had a good rapport with the police, are now forced to
explore other means of supporting themselves.
"I am told this is most likely by working on streets outside
Soho, where they are far more vulnerable to abuse, attack and
In a meeting before the raids, Mr Buckley and other community
leaders were told by the police that the operation sought to
eradicate the selling-on of stolen goods, and was not an attack on
the women working in the brothels.
Mr Buckley said that in the aftermath of the police sweep,
however, the prevention of human trafficking was given as the
justification for the raids.
"There is a feeling that the police have had to change their
story to justify an unsuccessful operation," he wrote in his
report. "I believe that none of the girls at the flats have been
charged with handling stolen goods."
Mr Buckley also wrote that police officers had treated some of
the prostitutes working in the brothels without care and respect.
He said that one woman had been forced out into the street wearing
just her underwear, and others had been searched by male
Some of the women had even been threatened by the police with
suggestions that they would reveal to their families that they were
working as prostitutes, he said.
"I regret to say that trust and confidence in the police . . .
has been severely undermined by the seemingly ham-fisted nature of
After the Church Times went to press, the
Metropolitan Police released a statement which said: "The Brothel
Closure Orders applied for by Westminster Borough officers during
the operation were subject to hearings before a Magistrates Court
within 14 days of service if and when they were contested.
"A District Judge presided over these hearings with access to
all the evidence and information and upheld the majority of these
"A number of these Orders are currently subject to appeal at Crown
Court and it would be inappropriate to discuss the points raised
while legal proceedings are ongoing."
On Monday, two sex-workers lost their legal case against the
Metropolitan Police after they had claimed that the closure of
their brothels had left them more vulnerable to attack.