Sex workers’ convictions ‘records of abuse’
Women campaign for old ‘crimes’ to be wiped off Police National Computer
24 January, 2020 — By Tom Foot
Fiona Broadfoot: ‘Why should my record of being abused and exploited remain recorded and held on the Police National Computer?’
THREE women who overturned legislation forcing former sex workers to disclose criminal convictions when applying for work are campaigning for their records to be wiped off the police database.
The former street prostitutes, who had multiple convictions under the Street Offences Act 1959, argue their convictions are “records of abuse” and evidence that they are “victims rather than perpetrators of crime”.
The group won a landmark case in 2018 that ruled soliciting and loitering offences should no longer show up on employer checks.
Despite being trafficked and groomed as young girls, their street prostitution arrest history was being made known to employers more than 20 years after they left that life behind.
One of the women, Fiona Broadfoot, who was trafficked from Bradford to work in central London as a girl in the 1980s, said: “Why should my record of being abused and exploited remain recorded and held on the Police National Computer?”
The government dropped its appeal against the 2018 ruling on convictions being declared to employers days before a hearing was scheduled in the Court of Appeal on Wednesday this week.
But the move meant the court reserved judgment on a counter appeal from the women that retaining loitering and soliciting convictions on the PNC was unlawful. These criminal records are kept on the PNC for up to 100 years.
The women have been backed by the Centre for Women’s Justice, a public interest law firm charity founded in 2016, and by the English Collective of Prostitutes.
The women’s solicitor, Harriet Wistrich, said in a statement: “Many of those who were in street prostitution are now recognised to have been victims rather than perpetrators of crime. That they should continue to be stigmatised by the fact that this history of abuse is recorded and held on the Police National Computer is a violation of their human rights that should end. While there remain deeply divided views on prostitution and what should be done about it, most people involved in the debate accept now is the time to end this injustice.”