Stay lifted on a ground-breaking challenge against Government’s policy on prostitution convictions
Published 27 July 2017
Leader of WE, Sophie Walker, said the decision put freedom in sight for the women involved in prostitution who should never have been convicted to begin with.
“These women were children when they were groomed and pimped into prostitution and suffered serious violence and abuse. They needed support, but instead they were criminalised. The judge’s decision to resume legal proceedings today gives us hope that their convictions really will be spent and they can be given the chance to build a new life,” said Walker.
The Government argued that the case should be stayed until after a hearing in the Supreme Court in a series of other cases concerning the disclosure of criminal convictions, which could have taken more than a year. However, the judge lifted the stay and opted to fast track proceedings so that the case will hopefully be heard in Autumn.
“The judges recognised what we all see, that these women have suffered for too long. As Nia’s recent report showed, criminal records create huge barriers for women trying to exit prostitution, making it difficult to access education, training and employment. More than twenty-years out of prostitution, they should not have to keep re-telling their history of abuse,” Walker added.
The report by nia, “I’m no criminal: Examining the impact of prostitution-specific criminal records on women seeking to exit prostitution,” found that criminal convictions have harmful and discriminatory effects on women, entrenching them further in both the criminal justice system and in prostitution.
“This is one step forwards in the fight to decriminalise women who seek or are sold for sex. There is growing consensus that criminal records and criminal justice measures lead to further violence and abuse, and contradict the Government’s commitment to rehabilitating women involved in prostitution. The Government is also in direct breach of its international treaty obligations in respect of the rights of a child,” said Walker.
“We will continue to support this case as it progresses, as well as fighting for criminalisation of those who purchase sex,” she added.
Heather Harvey, nia's Head of Research and Development said: “We, at nia, are proud to stand by and with the women who are bringing this vital challenge. It is a courageous act on the part of this group of women and could help hundreds of other women similarly affected by these disproportionate, discriminatory, irrational and frankly, in some cases, probably illegal regulations and policy.”