I like the police. We’ve always got on rather well. However, here’s an example of some terrible, terrible police work from some chaps in the Met who – unforgivably – involved the News of the World.
‘Sex workers and their support groups have condemned a police operation to “out” prostitutes even when they have not been convicted of any crime.
Six street-based sex workers in Newham, east London, were named on the Metropolitan police website. Police posted their photos, full names and dates of birth.
In a second case, two Polish women who were selling sex from their home in Aldgate, east London, were raided by City of London police as part of Operation Monaco.
Operation Monaco was launched in May 2009 but police have admitted that just one charge of controlling a prostitute for gain has been made, as well as 52 charges for placing cards in phone boxes advertising sexual services.
Police took photographs of the Polish women, who were not charged. Last Sunday, photos appeared in News of the World. The women said they were distressed by the police raid and the lack of warning that their pictures would appear in a tabloid newspaper.
“Why have the police done this to me?” said Vicky, one of the two. “I work as a childminder and a cleaner and do some sex work to make ends meet. I pay tax and national insurance and am not doing anything illegal. A lot of people know me, and even though the News of the World blocked out my face I’m still identifiable by my hair, clothes and jewellery.”
The women lodged a complaint with the newspaper, which removed their images from its website.
“The police were looking for money and found £50 from a customer,” she added. “We never use drugs and are always sober when we’re working. The police kept asking us over and over again if we’d been trafficked. We haven’t been, and we signed a piece of paper to say that.
“If the police continue to behave like this, none of the women doing sex work will speak to them if they do have information about any crimes. I think they have been watching too much Diary of a Call Girl.”
Georgina Perry, the manager of an NHS sex work project in east London called Open Doors, said: “I’m very disappointed with the police. They can’t go around asking the community to police vulnerable women. It encourages vigilantism.”
Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said: “I suspect this is part of a pre-Olympics clean-up in east London.”
A Met spokesman said the asbos against the Newham women had been used as a last resort because they were persistent offenders, and that decisions to publicise the identities of people issued with asbos were made on a case-by-case basis.
“Association of Chief Police Officers guidelines clearly state that working with the media on operations can assist in the prevention and detection of crime.”‘