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Soho priest takes up case of brothel workers after raid

21 February 2014

DYLAN CLEMENTS/INF

Raided: the Metropolitan Police at a business in Soho in December

Raided: the Metropolitan Police at a business in Soho in December

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 rape."

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 officers.

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 this operation."

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 Orders.

"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.

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