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Action Alert! Stop the prosecution of Sheila Farmer. Safety must be the priority

English Collective of Prostitutes | 18.07.2011 14:08 | Gender | Repression | Social Struggles

Sheila Farmer is being put on trial for brothel-keeping on Monday 5 September at Croydon Crown Court. Please can you urgently write to stop the prosecution
to the addresses below.

Ms Sheila Farmer has been a diabetic since childhood and is seriously ill with a malignant brain tumour. Yet she has been charged with managing a brothel and is facing an onerous trial and criminal record.

Ms Farmer used to work on her own but after only six months she was viciously attacked by a man who raped her repeatedly, tried to strangle her and kept her tied up for hours. He was deported after an Old Bailey trial. Fearful of another attack, Ms Farmer vowed never to work alone. She has worked with friends for the past 17 years.

Ms Farmer says ‘I believe strongly that women working as we were should be left alone. The laws are antiquated. I was earning money to pay for my cancer treatment. This moral crusade is making criminals out of women like me.’

Ms Farmer’s flat was raided by the police in August 2010. Following complaints by some neighbours, police officers visited and saw there was no force or coercion. To make things easier Ms Farmer agreed to move. Yet while she was in the process of moving she was arrested. Her insulin was taken from her and she was only released from police custody after a doctor said that her health would be in serious danger if she were to be held any longer.

Ms Farmer has never coerced anyone into work. On the contrary, she has taken great care to protect women from attack. At personal risk, despite threats and retribution, she appeared as a witness in court to ensure the conviction of an armed gang that had attacked hundreds of working women in the south of England.

Ms Farmer is a mother trying to survive in harsh economic times. She only went into sex work because diabetes caused her to lose too much of her vision to keep her job as an IT consultant. Ms Farmer is struggling to survive two serious health conditions. Her consultant has written to the court: “I am afraid the future is uncertain and one can almost guarantee that the tumour will grow and progress in the relatively near future. If possible it would be medically justifiable to try and avoid any stress associated with any prolonged Court hearing.”

Not only does Ms Farmer face a prolonged trial, she faces up to seven years in prison. Why is this prosecution being brought?

Please write to Kier Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions and ask for the case to be dropped immediately.

Copy to Jo Johnson MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA Tel: 020 7219 7125

The CPS should follow their own guidelines when prosecuting:

· To prevent people leading or forcing others into prostitution. But Ms Farmer was working with others consensually and independently. There was no force, coercion, violence or trafficking.

· The age of the prostitute and the position of those living off the earnings will clearly be relevant. All were adults who knew their own minds.

· To penalise those who organise prostitutes and make a living from their earnings. Like millions of others, Ms Farmer ran a small private business, not a big exploitative company. She is now having to rely on State benefits to survive.

· Generally, the more serious the incident the more likely that a prosecution will be required. The police established that no serious crime was taking place at the premises.

The laws which force sex workers to work in isolation and make us more vulnerable to attack must be abolished. For safety’s sake, decriminalize.

English Collective of Prostitutes, 020 7482 2486

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