Judicial review hearing 17 and 18 January
The women bringing the case (claimants), lawyer and campaigners are available for comment. Demonstration of support outside court from 9.30 on 17 January.
Royal Courts of Justice, Court 3, Strand, London WC2A 2LL – hearing starting at 10.30
On 17 and 18 January the Divisional Court will hear an application for judicial review of the Government’s policy in relation to the retention, recording and disclosure of criminal convictions arising from soliciting offences.
The claim, brought by a group of women, formerly involved in prostitution, will argue for the first time that the Government legislative scheme discriminates against women and is contrary to the UK’s legal obligations in respect of the trafficking of women. They will also rely on previous findings that the scheme is a disproportionate interference of their private life.
“I met a pimp aged 15 and two weeks later I was thrown into the violent and abusive world of prostitution. Rape became an occupational hazard but I was arrested, charged and criminalised for loitering for the purposes of being a common prostitute. After more than twenty years out of prostitution, I am still having to explain my criminal record to any prospective employer. It feels like explaining my history of abuse” Fiona Broadfoot, Claimant.
The women bringing the claim were exploited and trafficked as teenagers and forced to survive through prostitution for a number of years before getting out. Most of those who have been in street prostitution have multiple convictions under s1 Street Offences Act 1959 which means that when applying for a range of jobs or volunteering activity, DBS checks will result in their histories of prostitution being made known many years after they have left that life behind.
“It doesn’t matter what it is – trying to help out at my kids’ school or the local brownies’ coffee morning, trying to be a governor or a councillor, applying to education or training or employment – even volunteering in so many fields – with children, with the elderly, in care, with vulnerable people, with youth work, with social work – all need a DBS and then you get treated like some sort of pariah or sex offender! But it’s not fair – I never chose that life and I fought hard to get out of it but I’m always being pulled back to it as though that’s who I am but it’s not who I am.” Prostitution survivor.
The women describe their criminal records as a “catalogue of their abuse”, but as victims of rape and sexual abuse they appear to have no entitlement to anonymity in the disclosure process.
“As the judge recognised in an earlier hearing in this case, attitudes to women who have been groomed into prostitution have changed. Most are controlled and coerced and therefore meet the wider definition of trafficking. As such this policy is inconsistent with the Modern Slavery Act as it continues to punish victims” said Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the women.
“We wish to see women’s existing records expunged, immediate amendments to existing legislation and guidance around recording, retention and disclosure and, in future, women should not be criminalised for their involvement in prostitution but offered help and support to access a full range of viable opportunities and choices besides prostitution,” Said spokesperson for nia, (charity supporting the women).
For more information about the case: http://centreforwomensjustice.org.uk/2017/12/18/prostitution-convictions-january/#more-1977
Harriet Wistrich (Lawyer from Birnberg Peirce acting for the women and Director of Centre for Women’s Justice, supporting the women) 020 7911 0166 or 07903 912 641
Heather Harvey (Research and development manager at nia – a charity working on all forms of violence against women and girls and supporting the women) 0207 683 1270 or 07472 145141.
 The Disclosure and Barring Regulations