Policing and Indoor sex workers

Although it is not illegal for adults to sell sex, if you sell sex in a flat then you can fall foul of the law in a number of different ways.

  • You will be breaking the law if there is more than one woman selling sex in the premises (even if it is one woman each day but different women over the course of a week).

  • You could be accused of breaking the law if you have a maid or someone answering the telephone – as this person could be accused of ‘controlling for gain’

  • You could be accused of running a business from a residential premises and the police could contact your landlord to find out if s/he is aware of this.  Even if your landlord does not have a problem with you selling sex from the premises the police may put pressure on her/him to terminate your lease.

  • If your immigration status is irregular and you do not have the correct paper work to be in the UK or to earn money in the UK.

There are different police units who can come to your flat.  Some police will be in uniform, some will not.

Even though you may be nervous and scared, always check the Police's ID (the number on their shoulder if they are in uniform) and take a business card.
This is so that services are able to support you most effectively if they know which police have visited and what they have visited you for.

  • You should always be allowed to get dressed before the police begin talking to you, but expect that once the police are in the premises they will be with you at all times to prevent you from leaving.

  • Police should talk to you politely and courteously.  If you do not speak English then you should be offered an interpreter to translate for you if you are taken to the police station.

  • The Police are not allowed to bring in news reporters or members of the media if they enter your flat without your permission.

You may have called the police to your premises because a crime has taken place against you.
If you are not happy with the way you have been treated and would like to discuss this further then please contact one of the Open Doors team or the ECP.

Policing and street sex work

If you sell sex on the street here are some things that it is useful for you to know:

Behaviour on the street
The main reason that the Police will caution and arrest street sex workers is because of complaints from local residents about anti-social behaviour.

  • Noise (women and their customers shouting in the street in the middle of the night).

  • Anti-social behaviour such as dropped condoms, drug paraphernalia, sex working in stairwells and gardens of residential properties.

  • Kerb crawlers approaching female residents and school children.

  • The presence of drug dealers in residential areas.

The women who do not come to the attention of the police are women who behave responsibly when working on the street and are not the cause of any of the problems outlined.
Although it is not illegal for adults to sell sex, if you do so by soliciting (walking up and down the street to look for or attract customers) then you can be cautioned by the police.  The reason for this is that the law sees soliciting as anti-social-behaviour and takes measures to prevent it and punish those involved (including sex workers and their customers).

Different parts of the UK deal with street sex workers differently, however if you are caught by the police three times within a three month period (and have been given a formal caution on two previous occasions) then it is likely that you will be arrested and put on the following:

Policing and a Court Diversion

A Court Diversion is where you will be expected to meet a project officer twice within a six week period who is skilled in helping you with any criminal justice issues.
This will give you the opportunity to get support with:

  • health

  • benefits

  • housing

  • drug prescribing

(Basically any of the areas that are causing you problems in your life).
You will be given a bail date to return to the police station.  However this will be cancelled once you have completed your two engagements.

Policing and Court Orders

This is a court order given by the court. This order lasts for 6 months and you are expected to engage with the supervising officer three times within that period.

If you are picked up by the police for soliciting you will be taken to the police station where you will be presented in court the next morning or given a court date to attend.  Following the magistrate agreeing to a Engagement and Support Order You will be given an appointment to attend with a supervising officer and released from court the same day. If you do not attend without good reason you will be in breach and could be returned to court for sentencing.

Once you have engaged with the supervising officer three times the court will be notified and the order will be finished.

If you are taken to court to appear in front of a magistrate this could result in you being fined or kept for a period in a cell eg overnight while waiting to attend court. While this may seem an easier option you need to think about how you are going to pay the fine and should have a drug addiction to opiates how you are going to manage drug withdrawal.

Being on an order sounds scary but it can give you the chance to make positive changes with lots of support from project officers. Project Officers are trained in this line of work and have a deep understanding of the complexity facing women who sex work on the street.

Although the police may not caution or arrest you when they see you working on the street, they may be collecting intelligence towards an Anti-Social-Behaviour-Order (ASBO) which could lead to you being banned from entering the borough or certain areas of the borough in which you work.  This could cause problems if your support services (health, housing, case management assistance) are based in this particular area.

Getting an ASBO could affect your housing if you are seeking support from a local authority housing register and if you breach an ASBO you could face a prison sentence.