Thursday, 22 April 2010
Jubilation and Justice
Good evening and greetings from Dundee where I am chilling out in my hotel room. I am going through a myriad of emotions this evening, on one hand I am absolutely jubilant because the proposed amendments tabled by Trish Godman have been thrown out. I know it's only a matter of time until a further amendment is tabled, but for now, I am so proud of everyone who took the time to object to the proposed changes, the activists I am proud to work with , the ladies from SAAFE, the Punternet posters, all of them deserve a huge pat on the back.
This is what appeared in The Daily Record -
An attempt to criminalise people who buy sex from prostitutes was today rejected by a Holyrood committee.
Labour MSP Trish Godman had tried to win support for the proposed offence, which she argued would send a strong message and reform an "unequal" law which focuses on women.
But the Justice Committee voted against the measure, which was backed only by Labour politicians, saying the issues had not been thoroughly investigated.
In her plea to the committee, Ms Godman said: "As I speak, men are buying sex from prostitutes, men are raping women who are trafficked, they have no fear, they will never get caught because it is not an offence.
"We need to send a strong message that buying sex is not harmless or acceptable, it should be regarded in Scotland as an abuse and an exploitation which will not tolerated.
"I would argue that we owe it to all women who are victimised by prostitution to do what we can now."
Ms Godman rejected concerns that her amendment would push prostitution "indoors", saying that if men can find it, police and welfare services can as well.
Tory, SNP and Liberal Democrat committee members said they recognised the importance of the amendment but said it should not be added late to the wider overhaul of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill, currently at its second stage of parliamentary scrutiny.
Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing, who was also at today's committee session, said experts had warned the proposed law could make the problem worse.
He added: "The Government is concerned about making substantial changes to the law in this difficult, complex and sensitive area, without proper consideration, consultation, with all the issues involved.
"Rushing through a major change to the law of prostitution through stage-two amendments, without any proper consultation and with very limited time for consideration, is a bad idea."
Mr Ewing said 93 submissions had been made to Parliament about the prostitution laws, compared with an earlier 90 for the entire Bill.
Independent MSP Margo MacDonald - who lodged her own amendments but opposed Ms Godman - told the committee that not all women are forced into prostitution and called for a separate investigation into any law changes.
She said: "If the intention of this committee and this Parliament is to outlaw paid-for sex between consenting adults, then you'll have to tackle that, and it will need much more information than we've got this morning."
Ms Godman's amendment was defeated by five votes to three.
So huge congratulations all 'round.
I was just beginning to relax when I discovered that Grampian and Tayside Police have taken it upon themselves to trace the movements of WG’s visiting their areas and pay them a visit. There have been several incidents brought to light over the last few days which include plain clothes police officers arriving at hotels and apartments with details of the ladies working names, sometimes photographic evidence – face pics taken from private galleries on websites.
One lady described how she opened the door presuming it was house-keeping, only to be confronted by officers of the law addressing her by her working name. The room was checked for visitors, she was asked to put her money away in front of one of them (presumably so they couldn't’t be accused of theft), asked her name, address, place of birth, husband’s name and maiden name. After a PNC radio check she was told they were aware of visitors she’d had and her comings and goings of that day. They mentioned management at the hotel had informed them.
However, what followed afterwards is most intriguing and worrying:-
“They then insisted they take a photograph of me. I was informed it was just for their file in case anything should happen to me on future visits. They mentioned they wanted to know who everyone was. This consisted of one of the officers using a video camera and him asking me to state my real name, date of birth and my working name to the camera. They then assisted me as I packed my stuff (hotel management had asked them to ask me to leave) and were very chatty and friendly asking me what I was going to do next. They politely assisted me from the building giving me a card and asking me to call if I was visiting the area again as he wanted to be made aware”
This is harassment, pure and simple. When the Police arrive at the hotel / apartment where a lady is quite legally working, what they are doing is flashing their ID and asking the managers if they would like the "prossie" removed. Of course the answer is "Yes", so a woman who has committed no crime is thrown out of a hotel in full view of other guests. NOT ACCEPTABLE. For the next couple of days I will be in deep conversation with MSP's, lawyers and activists. This underhand and quite frankly disgusting behaviour needs to stop, and now.
Hah, if you thought I would stop ranting because the proposed amendments were thrown out, you were sadly mistaken, I have found a new bug bear.