Top prosecutors urge Leeds sex workers to report crimes of sexual violence

16/12/2016

Two senior prosecutors from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) met a group of six sex workers in Leeds today to discuss how the CPS approaches cases involving crimes of sexual violence committed against sex workers, and to answer questions the women have about all aspects of the prosecution process.

The aim of the meeting was a confidence-building exercise to encourage the women to report this type of offence committed against them. It was held to mark the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on 17 December.

The meeting was organised by BASIS - a Leeds-based charity offering help and support to women working in the sex industry. They also support girls involved in or at risk of child sexual exploitation and women who have experienced child sexual exploitation in the past.

Martin Goldman, Chief Crown Prosecutor, CPS Yorkshire and Humberside said:

"This was a really useful meeting. It was a privilege to have this opportunity to meet the women and have the chance to explain what we do and how we do it, and to answer their questions.

"I was able to reassure them that we do prosecute those who commit sexual violence against sex workers and are very serious about building on the successes we have had so that with their support we are determined to prosecute more cases.

"The CPS is successfully prosecuting more crimes of rape than ever before.  The CPS, the West Yorkshire Police and rape support groups work extremely closely together meaning that we provide really good support for victims of these terrible crimes with our conviction rate for rape cases reaching 68%.

"I hope that our meeting will encourage these women to speak up - and to tell their friends and colleagues to do the same."

Helen Sanderson, District Crown Prosecutor, Rape and Serious Sexual Offences team at CPS Yorkshire and Humberside said:

"These crimes are always challenging to prosecute and we explained how women can self-refer to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) for a medical examination which could help to preserve vital forensic evidence.

"We also spoke about how restraining orders can be used, even if a defendant is found not guilty, and that consent can be conditional for example on the use of a condom, and that consent can be withdrawn at any time.

"We're also aware that many women tolerate high levels of abuse in their personal relationships and we also discussed the new legislation about abuse as a result of coercive and controlling behaviour."

Taylor Austin Little, the specialist ISVA/IDVA provider for Basis Sex Work said:

"We really appreciate the support given by the CPS in the meeting and in general to our service users, particularly in light of the International Day of Violence Against Sexworkers on Dec. 17th.

"It's important for the CPS staff to hear about the experience of sexual and other forms of violence first hand from our service users and how the justice process might be a challenge for them. Equally for the women its important they hear firsthand how the CPS can and will support their cases wherever possible."