Changing the rules*

Can I refuse to be sniffed by a police dog? Why won't my juror wife talk to me any more? Let the <em

A few days ago, I got the Tube to work and found my regular stop crawling with drugs officers and sniffer dogs. As my flatmate’s not averse to the odd joint, I began

to feel quite prickly. The dogs turned out to be more interested in someone else’s pizza box than in me – but could I have refused to be smelled?

Robert Jacobs, London

The Association of Chief Police Officers has long asserted that the simple use of a sniffer dog does not amount to a "search" - which would be illegal unless based on reasonable grounds - and there is no law directly on the point. Where the sniffing is targeted, however, the situation is different. According to Acpo's own guidelines: "People may not be funnelled or individuals requested to change their direction in order to facilitate the dogs' deployment as this may constitute a search."

The problem you face is that a reluctance to co-operate is often treated as reasonable grounds for a shakedown. An incident last December in Camden, north London, involving a 41-year-old black man, Andrew Mackintosh, is a case in point. When he objected to being sniffed, because he felt the police were singling him out for his skin colour, they forcibly searched him. After finding nothing, they justified their action by asserting that Mackintosh had "avoided the police drugs dog and refused to give reason, became very argumentative with police when spoken to, refused to be searched".

Such logic, elliptical though it is, serves as a reminder that any attempt to question the authority of a dog squad will have to be explained with care. You might point out, perhaps, that the most comprehensive study into canine drug detection, undertaken for the New South Wales ombudsman in Australia in 2004, found that three-quarters of positive indications were wrong. You could directly challenge the abilities of the dogs at the Tube station - via their handlers - by asking to see their training records. Advise the officers in addition that if they search you, you will sue them for assault and battery.

I cannot guarantee they will be supportive. Body odour is a personal matter, however - and even if monitoring it might be justified, it is the vigilance of people like you that keeps the nostrils of the state under control.

My wife recently served on a jury, and is still quite upset about it. Her fellow jurors apparently overruled her in one of their verdicts, but she won’t talk about it because that would be “illegal”. I feel rather helpless. She’s never kept anything from me before. Is the law really that insensitive?

A troubled husband, Whitby

Yes. You are already in contempt for asking your wife about her deliberations, and she would have committed a criminal offence had she replied. Courts respect the sanctity of the jury room over matrimonial candour every time.

In order to resume satisfactory oral relations with your wife, you must therefore proceed with sensitivity to the law's needs. I recommend that you set aside an evening to share your anxieties. You can vocalise your own concerns, of course, but a recent Court of Appeal decision means that she must seal hers in an envelope. It can then be forwarded by you to a court bailiff.

I appreciate that the value of this exercise may not be immediately apparent. Strictly speaking, it might not, indeed, exist at all. Facilitating communication with the court has the potential, however, to bridge the awkward gap between personal and political that has opened up in your marriage. And even if it fails fully to reconcile you as a couple, it can only deepen your respect for each other as citizens.

Sadakat Kadri is a barrister and author of "The Trial: a history from Socrates to O J Simpson" (Harper Perennial, 2006). Send your civil liberties and human-rights dilemmas to: Changing the Rules, New Statesman, 52 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0AU. This column appears fortnightly

Sadakat Kadri is a human rights barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and a writer. His most recent book is The Trial: A History from Socrates to O.J. Simpson, and he is a past winner of the Spectator/Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing.

This article first appeared in the 07 May 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Blair: The reckoning

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Why is the government charging more women for selling sex but turning a blind eye to buyers?

Since 2013, the number of women charged for selling sex gone up while the number of men charged for buying it has gone down.

It’s no surprise that prostitution policy is an area rarely visited by our legislators. It’s politically charged - a place where the need to prevent exploitation seemingly clashes head on with notions of liberal freedom; where there are few simple answers, a disputed evidence base, and no votes.

There’s also little evidence to suggest that MPs are different from the rest of the population - where one-in-ten men have purchased sex. It is little wonder therefore that our report on how the law should change, published in 2014, was the first major cross-party intervention on the subject in twenty years.

Some take the view that by removing all legal constraints, it will make the inherently exploitative trade of prostitution, safer. It’s not just me that questions this approach, though I accept that - equally - there’s no consensus that my preferred measure of criminalising the purchase of sex, while decriminalising the sale, would fundamentally change the scale of the problem.

Where all sides come together, however, is in the desire to see women diverted from the law courts. It is still possible for women (and it still is women; prostitution remains highly genderised) to go to prison for offences related to prostitution. Today, in 2015.

The total number of prosecutions for all prostitution offences in England and Wales has been decreasing since 2010, but not in a uniform fashion. This does not reflect a reduction in the size of the trade, or the violent nature of it.

There were once consistently more prosecutions for kerb crawling, profiting, and control of prostitution. But since 2013, there have been more prosecutions for soliciting or loitering than for profit from prostitution and kerb crawling each year.

In simple terms, offences committed by men with choice, freedom and money in their pocket are having a blind eye turned to them, while women are being targeted - and this trend is accelerating. In the law courts, and in prosecutions, it is the most vulnerable party in the transaction, who is taking the burden of criminality.

Take on-street sex buying as an example. In 2013-14 just 237 prosecutions were brought for kerb crawling, but there were 553 - more than twice as many - for loitering and soliciting.

There is a similar pattern in the 2014/15 figures: 227 charges for kerb crawling reached court, while 456 prosecutions were initiated against those who were selling sex. Just 83 prosecutions for control of prostitution, or ‘pimping’, were brought in that same year.

These are men and women on the same street. It takes a high level of liberal delusion to be convinced that prostitution is caused by a surge of women wishing to sell sex, rather than men who wish to buy it. And yet women who sell sex are the ones being targeted in our law courts, not the men that create the demand in the first place.

This situation even goes against the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) own guidance. They say:

“Prostitution is addressed as sexual exploitation within the overall CPS Violence Against Women strategy because of its gendered nature… At the same time, those who abuse and exploit those involved in prostitution should be rigorously investigated and prosecuted, and enforcement activity focused on those who create the demand for on-street sex, such as kerb crawlers.”

Why then, is this happening? For the same reason it always does - in our criminal justice system stigmatised, poor women are valued less than moneyed, professional men.

My debate in Parliament today raises these issues directly with the government ministers responsible. But to be honest, the prosecution-bias against women in the courts isn’t the problem; merely a symptom of it. This bias will only be tackled when the law reflects the inherent harm of the trade to women, rather than sending the mixed signals of today.

That’s why I welcome the work of the End Demand Alliance, composed of over 40 organisations working to end the demand that fuels sex trafficking and prostitution, advocating the adoption of the Sex Buyer Law throughout the UK.

This would criminalise paying for sex, while decriminalising its sale and providing support and exiting services for those exploited by prostitution. Regardless of these big changes in the law, I don’t see how anyone can support the current state of affairs where there are more prosecutions brought against women than men involved in prostitution.

The authorities are targeting women because they're easier to arrest and prosecute. It goes against their own guidance, common sense and natural justice.
And it needs to stop.

Gavin Shuker is MP for Luton South and chair of the All Party Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.