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Atheist Feminists Message Board The London Feminism Meetup Group Discussion Forum › ECP defends harassment and prison threat to London woman by use of ASBO

ECP defends harassment and prison threat to London woman by use of ASBO

Sue M
sue.mayer
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 3,607
From ECP - English Collective of Prostitutes:

"On Friday 12 July, 10am at Stratford Magistrates Court, Ms CH faces charges of breaching an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO) which bans her from loitering throughout the whole borough of Tower Hamlets for 26 years. This offence carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Ms CH is not guilty of loitering. She lives in Tower Hamlets -- her home is in the red-light area! Every time she leaves her house she risks being arrested for loitering regardless of what she is doing. On this occasion she was waiting for a taxi.

What is the evidence needed to prove loitering? “Standing on a street corner looking in the direction of several men” has been enough in some cases. So it isn’t what you do, it is who you are that seems to be the greatest proof of street prostitution. How is a woman who has worked in the past ever able to defend herself and be believed when the case relies on hearsay evidence from the police alone and is heard before magistrates who rubber stamp what the police say.

Ms CH was given the ASBO about four years ago when she was ill and not in a position to challenge it. Some of the evidence used didn’t even relate to her but to another woman. Instead of providing support, Ms CH feels the police took advantage of her vulnerable state. The Metropolitan Police have acknowledged that pursuing sex workers for ASBOs undermines safety because it deters women from reporting rape and other violence.

There are other factors in this case that should be taken into account:

Ms Hughes is the devoted mother of a three-year-old boy. She just got permanent housing near to where her son lives. If she is convicted she may be imprisoned “causing long-term emotional, social, material and psychological damage” [Howard League, Voice of a Child, 2011] to both child and mother. Ms CH could also be made homeless again which she fears would drive her back onto the street.

Ms Hughes is also a victim of rape and other violence. She has been attacked countless times while working but only reported one attack to the police — she felt compelled to do so because her injuries were so severe and she feared that the man would attack other women. She courageously gave evidence in court and the man was convicted. Now she feels she can’t go to the police because she’ll be arrested.

In the name of women’s safety, ASBOs must be abolished. They are used to unfairly target sex workers for arrest and imprisonment and shunt women around, often into more isolated areas, where they are more at risk of violence. At a time of vicious cuts in public services and increased unemployment and poverty, women need money to feed themselves and their families, not criminalisation and imprisonment.

Protest outside Stratford Magistrates Court 9.30 – 10.30, Friday 12 July and then attend court to support Ms CH. "
Sue M
sue.mayer
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 3,608
From ECP - English Collective of Prostitutes:

"We had another very good picket today in support of Ms CH outside Stratford Magistrates Court. The case began mid-morning. The police gave evidence and a number of contradictions emerged in their account. The case was then adjourned because Ms CH became unwell. The same magistrates will hear Ms CH’s evidence on the morning of Thursday 25 July.

The CPS wrote back in response to our demand for the case to be dropped (prompted no doubt by the protest letters they received from other supporters). They gave the usual outrageous response saying that they considered it was in the public interest to prosecute but didn’t give a reason and didn’t address any of the concerns about safety or the impact of imprisonment on Ms CH and her child.

Please keep sending in letters of support. In the letters we saw so far, people wrote eloquently about their own situation and why they are concerned -- this is very effective.

Join us in court on 25th if you can. We’ll let you know what happens."
Sue M
sue.mayer
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 3,615
On 25/07/2013 20:34, ECP wrote:
>
> We won . . . we won . . . we won . . . we won!
> Not guilty of breaching an Anti-social Behaviour Order
>
> Today Ms CH was found not guilty of charges of breaching an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO). The ASBO bans her from loitering throughout the whole borough of Tower Hamlets for 26 years and now must be abolished in its entirety.
>
> P1060826.JPG
>
> Ms CH posed outside court with a placard from protests, organised by the English Collective of Prostitutes. She said:
>
> “While I am very relieved that this case is finished, for as long as this ASBO is over me, I can still be picked up at any time. I feel that the police have taken advantage and that I have been treated badly.”
>
> In court, police officers’ evidence was exposed as unreliable. They said they had seen Ms CH loitering but under cross examination they were forced to admit that they were driving fast and it could have been anyone!
>
> ASBOs are orders, imposed using a civil standard of proof -- the balance of probabilities. But breaching an ASBO is a criminal offence carrying a five-year maximum prison sentence. No complaints from the public or evidence of nuisance are needed in court and magistrates generally rubber-stamp unsubstantiated police claims.
>
> Cari Mitchell, English Collective of Prostitutes commented:

> “This case exposes how draconian ASBOs are. Hundreds of women have gone to prison on the word of a police officer alone. It also exposes the injustice of the prostitution laws. Women, who are constantly running from the police, are forced into isolated areas where they are more vulnerable to rape and other violence, and can’t come forward to
>
> 946903_555022247872562_1502398509_n.jpg
>
> report attacks. In some towns around the UK, street workers are saying that there are 10 rapes a week and rapists are allowed to operate with impunity. If there was ever a case for decriminalising prostitution this is it.”
>
> This case also demonstrated the difference that public scrutiny and campaigning can make. A parallel case for breaching the ASBO was due to come to court last week. Ms CH was unable to attend because she was ill. Medical evidence was presented to the court but the magistrate decided to proceed regardless and found her guilty! For as long as the police and courts have the power to criminalise sex workers this kind of persecution will continue. Sex workers in New Zealand said that after prostitution was decriminalised in 2003, they felt more able to insist on their rights and demand protection from the police because they had the “backing of the law.”
>

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