14 year old girl in court for being an “Escort”

// 11 March 2009

This story truly troubles me because we have a legal commitment to treating under 16 year old as victims of exploitation where they are prostituted not as perpetrators. Unless, apparently, they decide not to. As in this case in Tyneside where a 15 year old girl was found to have lubricant and condoms in her school bag and seemingly confessed to working as an escort.

The Escort agency nor their clients seem to be facing any legal action here despite clearly having broken the law. Local women’s group are calling for the Police to take action against both the agency and the clients.

Clare Phillipson, of charity Wearside Women in Need, said: “They need to investigate the agency if they haven’t already done so. The police have gone to her house and seized the money [she earnt], but have they made a list of her clients, and are they going to prosecute them?

From Chronicle Live

The girl had the money taken off her as “proceeds of crime”. Yep I’d agree – the crime was the sexual exploitation of a child, pimping of a child and rape of a child. The perpetrators are the agency and the men. Yet it seems to be that only the child here has suffered?

Wendy Shepherd, children’s service manager for Barnardo’s Sexual Exploitation Children Outreach Services (SECOS), oversees child exploitation matters around North East England. She added: “Child sexual exploitation is an issue for a number of towns and cities across the North East. It is not unusual that young people are coerced and groomed into sexual exploitative relationships, and they don’t always understand fully what is happening.”

From Chronicle Live

English Courtesan points out that:

At a normal escort agency rate of around £120 an hour, or less if they were longer bookings, that £8000 represented 67 punters. That was the true cost in this story…a 15 year old escort spreading her legs 67 times…Did the magistrates bother to understand that sum? Did they ask the girl what she’d been saving her money for? Did they consider their role as ‘magister’ and what they were teaching a teenager about justice? Or was it just a matter of smug moral principle and reclaiming £8000 for The Crown?

Comments From You

Kez // Posted 11 March 2009 at 12:05 pm

If true (I find it almost unbelievable) this is appalling! I cannot believe the police would choose to take no action against someone who is known to have been prostituting a child.

Are they perhaps saying the agency did not know her true age? (this is the only reason I can think of). But surely it would be their responsibility to check?

Laura Woodhouse // Posted 11 March 2009 at 12:06 pm

This is atrocious; it’s not as if it’s even a legally difficult case – she was under 16 so anyone who slept with her should be tried as a rapist, and she should be treated as a victim.

Just wanted to point out that I find English Courtesan’s wording here really inappropriate:

“…a 15 year old escort spreading her legs 67 times”

The language is demeaning, and undermines the argument that the girl is a victim, rather than a criminal.

tomhulley // Posted 11 March 2009 at 12:37 pm

Is the State living off immoral earnings of children? It looks like it.

I have found these contacts for court and police:

South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court

Millbank, Secretan Way

South Shields

NE33 1RG

http://www.northumbria.police.uk/contact_us/servicefeedback/index.asp

I want to complain. Do you mind if I quote your entry and/or link?

Louise Livesey // Posted 11 March 2009 at 12:56 pm

I am not sure what you are saying is inappropriate in the wording – the way I read it the real crime, the real price is a 15 year old GIRL being expoited that number of times by pimps and clients.

Yes I’d not chose to use the term “15 year old escort” (but then I’d also not say “32 year old escort” either – I go with Joanna Phoenix’s ideas around sex work not as a stable and unifying identity but as something women do and as something that women do and don’t do at different times in their lives – for Pheonix’s research participants it’s about “engaging in prostitution” not “being a prostitute”.

Louise Livesey // Posted 11 March 2009 at 1:01 pm

Hi Tom, thanks for asking about linking. My answer is it depends what you’d be advocating which isn’t clear here. If you are going to argue the state should give this child her money back, refill her lube and condoms and wave her off into the land of unregulated, no state intervention between consenting, erm, peoples, then yes I object, massively, strenously and angrily. If on the other hand you are going to argue the state failed in it’s duty of care to this child, that the Police should be chasing down the Agency which exploited a child and the men who raped her (because under the age of consent, it’s rape) and this should never be allowed to happen again – then feel free to link.

I find your phrasing very difficult “immoral earnings of children”? How is this about morality and why is it suddenly the child’s issue and not the adults?

tomhulley // Posted 11 March 2009 at 1:19 pm

My concern is why the victim was arrested and convicted instead of the perpetrators.

Whether children or not, prostituted people should not be the focus of criminal proceedings but those who prostitute them. Additionally, in this case, it seems that child safeguarding laws were ignored.

I would be very happy to support a form of words put together by you and/or others from F-word. When different people from across the country support a complaint it can be effective.

Yes I would give her the money back but would rather see her getting compensation (accepting that money compensation can only be a gesture for harm done).

My comment about the State was facetious. ‘Living off immoral earnings’ is (or was?) an offence. Living off the ‘immoral’ (not my word but the law’s) earnings of children is a double offence. The state has pocketed the proceeds of her abuse through the fine.

Hope this clarifies it. I would prefer to use a form of words from F-word rather than go it alone -any suggestion?

Laura // Posted 11 March 2009 at 1:42 pm

I meant the ‘spreading her legs’ bit. It just seems unnecessarily graphic.

Louise Livesey // Posted 11 March 2009 at 1:50 pm

I disagree – I think it’s often useful to bring people up against the reality of terms like “escort” or “sexual abuse” and so forth. We cover them with euphemisms so we don’t have to think about what they mean.

Louise Livesey // Posted 11 March 2009 at 1:55 pm

Ah right, sorry for not quite understanding your position earlier.

“Immoral earnings” I think has passed out of the statute book – now it’s about “controlled for anothers gain” or something similar and clearer.

OK yes Safeguarding Laws have been ignored, as have the laws around exploited children. I think individual complaints have most impact – I think I’d phrase it as a question – “Why did the Police chose to prosecute the child and ignore the pimping, grooming and rape that happened?”. Perhaps you could draft an email and put it up here so people could send it on to the address you really helpfully provided?

Kez // Posted 11 March 2009 at 2:32 pm

“I disagree – I think it’s often useful to bring people up against the reality of terms like “escort” or “sexual abuse” and so forth. We cover them with euphemisms so we don’t have to think about what they mean.”

You may be right. The phrase in question certainly does conjure up an unpleasantly graphic image, but perhaps that is appropriate in the circumstances.

Rachel // Posted 11 March 2009 at 2:52 pm

Louise -“”…a 15 year old escort spreading her legs 67 times”

The language is demeaning, and undermines the argument that the girl is a victim, rather than a criminal.”

Yup, what I was about to say. Maybe a 14 year old slut is a 14 year old slut in they eyes of the law!

Disgusted, btw

tomhulley // Posted 11 March 2009 at 3:46 pm

Louise,

As you invited, I have put this information together for people to complain. Can I check you are happy for people to do this? Do you want F-word mentioned as the source?

Suggested wording:

My attention has been brought to a case taken by Northumbria to the South Tyneside Magistrates Court. It appears that a 15 year old was fined for earning money as an ‘escort’.

Can I ask why the Police chose to prosecute the child and not those who have exploited her sexually and why the victim was criminalised in court when there is a duty to safeguard her.

I do not think this person could give legal consent and therefore believe that many crimes of rape have occurred.

Has any action been taken against the offenders or is there an explanation that I have missed?

My information came from: Chronicle Live.co.uk based on a report dated Feb 26 2009 by Chris Robinson in the Evening Chronicle and further websearch.

Yours etc

If you want to contact the court try:

NO-STynesideMCfines@hmcourts-service.gsi.gov.uk

with ‘Court Manager’ in the subject line

I am not wholly sure about this email address so the alternative is writing to:

Court Manager,

South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court,

Millbank, Secretan Way’,

South Shields.

NE33 1RG

If you want to contact Northumbria police then I suggest using their feedback form (but it means filling in all your details) at:

https://www.northumbria.police.uk/forms/ShowForm.aspx?FormID=17&SessionID=edf3cd5f-6857-4380-b24b-31fc433f0b1c&title=Generall+Feedback&acdept=VP

or write to:

Chief Superintendent Mark Dennett, c/o South Shields Police Station

Millbank, Station Road, South Shields. NE33 1RR

tallulah // Posted 11 March 2009 at 3:53 pm

This case doesn’t even make sense – the reason escort agencies get away with existing is because they say repeatedly that they don’t encourage their employees to have sex with clients, that if their employees choose to do so then that is their own business and something they do in their own time. If the law can accept this stance from agencies and therefore does not criminilise them, why is a girl being prosecuted for having sex with men she met through an agency? If you believe the ‘official’ stance from escort agencies then her having sex with the men was ‘her choice’ and the money she made was from working as an escort which is legitimate. Except for her age of course but obviously the agency should have checked out her ID a bit more thoroughly! Another clear example of a double standard regarding treatment of sexuality by the law, coming down most harshly on women!

Louise Livesey // Posted 11 March 2009 at 4:22 pm

obviously the agency should have checked out her ID a bit more thoroughly!

I think this assigns some benign neglect to the agency rather than saying they were responsible for preventing the exploitation of a minor and they failed in their duty of care towards her. As have the Police.

Louise Livesey // Posted 11 March 2009 at 4:27 pm

Thanks for doing that Tom, it’s a good letter people can adapt or just send as is. Mention The F Word if you wish, don’t if you don’t – either is OK with me.

Sparks // Posted 11 March 2009 at 4:28 pm

The school, in South Shields, contacted police who took the teenager home and the property was searched.

For a start the ‘school’ should have contacted Social Services and NOT the police.

Kath // Posted 11 March 2009 at 4:41 pm

I agree with Laura. To talk of a 14/15 year old “spreading her legs” is inappropriate. The term is pejorative and makes it sound like consensual sex, which is impossible as she is underage. “Spreading her legs” is still a euphemism, in this case for being raped.

Kez // Posted 11 March 2009 at 4:46 pm

The whole thing is bizarre. Schools should have child protection procedures in place, for a start. Obviously we don’t know the whole story but the behaviour of all the authorities in this case seems extraordinary.

v // Posted 11 March 2009 at 5:12 pm

Louise Livesey said:

“I disagree – I think it’s often useful to bring people up against the reality of terms like “escort” or “sexual abuse” and so forth. We cover them with euphemisms so we don’t have to think about what they mean.”

I agree with Louise here, the wording wasn’t nice, but then neither is the job. It was honest, which is more than can be said for the euphemisms mentioned.

Jackie Bather // Posted 11 March 2009 at 8:33 pm

What are the Child Protection agencies doing about this and similar cases ? Are they just permitting the prosecution to go ahead , without any intervention? HOPEFULLY NOT.

The English Courtesan // Posted 11 March 2009 at 8:48 pm

What an interesting post Louise and an even more interesting outcome, in terms of the proposed letter from Tom! I’m all for this as I think the police and magistrates alike should be ashamed of themselves. The whole story just feels wrong. The wrong ‘punishment’, the wrong ‘crime’, the wrong ‘defendant’.

I’m not sure I see it quite as clearly as you in some ways though. On the culpability and criminality of both the agency and the clients, I can only agree, but whether they were aware of what they were doing is another matter. Either way, you make a good point though that they should have been the ones in court. Ignorance is no defence and nor should it be.

You also made me think about language. Perhaps ’15 year old escort’ is a bit too tabloid, but I find myself wondering how the girl herself would feel about ‘child’ or ‘victim’ or ‘slut’? Personally I’m fine with escort but I wouldn’t be fine with victim or slut. Perhaps it’s that language is a very subjective thing.

Talking of which, Laura and Rachel, might I politely suggest you read the rest of the post before you make a judgement on the appropriateness of the wording? I can’t help feeling you’ve missed the point of what I was saying.

Livvy

polly styrene // Posted 11 March 2009 at 8:48 pm

This is just unbelievable. I’m ashamed to live in a country where this can happen.

james // Posted 11 March 2009 at 8:50 pm

I think you’re reading a lot into the scant details in the article. I don’t think there’s any grounds to think she was ‘in court’ or ‘prosecuted’ or ‘arrested’ or ‘convicted’. It just looks like it was just a standard civil recovery of the proceeds from crime. The crime could be any number of things – it couldn’t be rape of a child, she’d have to under 13 for that – ironically, money laundering is probably the most likely thing they’d claim.

I’d be surprised if they’re not going after the agency, I don’t think you can conclude they’re not from the article. You’d expect silence. The police have got to know they could make a lot of money taking them down.

Personally, I think there’s a least a debate to be had about whether siezing the money is the right thing. Helping people in these situations is very difficult. An unskilled young person can’t expect to earn much. The £7k a month compares very well to what she’d get, at least taking the cash from her removes an incentive for her to return. I know it’s a bit heartless for me to choose poverty rather than sexual exploitation for her from behind a keyboard, but letting her keep the money may not be the best thing to do to keep her safe.

Laura // Posted 12 March 2009 at 9:31 am

Just to clarify, as I was rather ill and brain dead yesterday! – in addition to being graphic, ‘spreading her legs’ is generally used in a derogatory way to victim blame or demean the woman/girl in question, so I thought it was a rather unfortunate choice of phrase in this context.

Louise Livesey // Posted 12 March 2009 at 5:28 pm

don’t think there’s any grounds to think she was ‘in court’ or ‘prosecuted’ or ‘arrested’ or ‘convicted’.

The case was heard at a Magistrates Court and Money Obtained Under Proceeds of Crime are Criminal Cases under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act not civil reclamation cases (which the Police wouldn’t have the authority to do as they are not a civil body.

As for the “scant evidence” in the original article – can I cite this “The teenager was hauled before the courts” and this “The teen, who can’t be named for legal reasons, had more than £8,000 seized by proceeds of crime officers after being taken to court.” and this “South Tyneside Magistrates heard” and this “At South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, on February 13, the cash was forfeited after magistrates ruled the money was “obtained by the proceeds of crime”.”

(The Legislation is here by the way) Proceeds of Crime cases under the 2002 Act are heard in Crown Court (County Court is the civil court) and decided on the basis of:

1. conviction or committal to Crown Court proceedings and request by the prosecutor for reclamation

2. a decision it is an appropriate request

Grounds for reclamation are

1. criminal lifestyle of defendant from which the personal has benefitted or 2. benefit from criminal conduct. I assume this case was taken on the latter grounds at which point the Court can make a confiscation order (which it clearly did here, see original article) deciding the recoverable amount (here £8,000).

it couldn’t be rape of a child, she’d have to under 13 for that

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 made any sexual act (not just penetration) illegal where one of the participants is under 16. Therefore the age of consent is 16 in this country. Not 13.

An unskilled young person can’t expect to earn much.

She wasn’t an “unskilled young person”, she was a 14 year old child – her occupation is “Schoolchild”.

George // Posted 12 March 2009 at 8:10 pm

I agree with Kath – to spread one’s legs is something that you choose to do. Also, it *is* a euphemism, and a victim-blaming/slut-shaming one at that. So, Iwould really rather it wasn’t used in any context, let alone in this one.

@ English Courtesan

I think the language is an interesting point. However, I also think our society (rightly) believes that a child cannot give consent to sex, let alone sex for money. Thus, I’d prefer the use of the word “victim” rather than escort.

polly styrene // Posted 13 March 2009 at 8:27 am

The 14 year old has not committed a crime at all, since it is not illegal to sell sex. She has been the victim of a crime, certainly. Therefore how can the money be confiscated as proceeds of a criminal lifestyle? What is the crime in question?

I’m still reeling in horror at this. I agree with Tom that complaining is in order, but I think we should also be complaining to the home secretary.

Jacqui Smith’s website claims you should contact your own MP due to ‘strict parliamentary protocols’. Looks like Jacqui trying to avoid work to me! But you can e-mail.

public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

And make it clear the e-mail is for the attention of the home secretary.

You might want to cite the current public consulation on the Home office website regarding violence against women and girls.

You can copy the correspondence to your own MP via they work for you.

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/

Laura // Posted 13 March 2009 at 4:23 pm

If you email your own MP all they will do is forward it to Jacqui Smith. And she’s talking crap when she says you can only contact your own MP. You can only contact your own MP on casework issues, i.e. if you need their help with a specific problem or if you want an issue to be raised in Parliament. If you have an issue to do with the duties of the home secretary, then you have the right to contact the home secretary. That said, email your MP as well, because they’re obliged by law to respond to MPs’ enquiries, and they aren’t required to respond to random members of the public.

David // Posted 16 March 2009 at 11:58 am

Louise, you said:

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 made any sexual act (not just penetration) illegal where one of the participants is under 16. Therefore the age of consent is 16 in this country. Not 13.

That’s true, but there are separate offences for having sex with a child under the age of 16 and for having sex with a child under the age of 13; the latter has a maximum penalty of life but the former has a maximum penalty of about five years, if memory serves me right.

Personally I’m disgusted that the Magistrates took the money off her. It seems so so wrong. She should be given all the support she needs to move away from sex work and taking £8000 off her would be more likely to push her back into sex work. It’s a lot of money to lose and many people would see it as something they would have to ‘earn back’; for a 15-year-old, the only way you’ll earn that money is through sex work or drugs work.

It seems that she’s undergone the abuse and doesn’t even have the proceeds to enable her to move on with her life. Taking the money from her makes it even more likely that she’ll return.

Louise Livesey // Posted 16 March 2009 at 1:36 pm

Dear David,

Your comment said it wasn’t rape of a child because she was over 13. She was a child (a minor in Court terms), she was raped because she was under the age of consent, and therefore could not consent.

She should be given all the support she needs to move away from sex work and taking £8000 off her would be more likely to push her back into sex work.

You are talking about a child as if she is a competent adult here. I agree she needs support and I wouldn’t want to diminish her capacities at all but she is simply not in a position to make this decision as a reasoned adult. She’s a child. I think serious questions need to be asked about her family background and why she was able to work as an “escort” – the guardians haven’t yet been mentioned here and I think there are clear questions to address on that. But a child should not need to earn money, they should be able to focus on being a child and being a learner at school.

David // Posted 19 March 2009 at 9:09 am

It’s not rape to have consensual sex with any person, there’s no such thing as statutory rape in the UK. The closest we have is the law regarding sex with children under the age of 13, where the law basically says it doesn’t matter whether the child consents or not; the penalty (max life imprisonment) is the same.

A child aged 13, 14 or 15 can consent to sex; if she consents, then it is not rape. There is a separate offence of having sex with a child under the age of 16 which has a much lower maximum penalty. If the child does not consent then it is rape.

The child in question is undoubedly not a ‘competent adult’ but I don’t think that makes all that much difference. Taking the money from her does not right the wrongs against her, all it does is make it more likely that she will return to sex work to replace the money she had taken from her. This is aside from the ‘need to earn’ money. Even if she doesn’t need it and was going to spend it all on 800 Nintendo Wiis it is still a lot of money to lose, on top of the sexual abuse.

It’s a tough one; I don’t think that letting her keep the money sets a very good example to other young girls in the area, but taking it from her achieves precisely nothing either. The agency keeps their cut, the men who sexually abused her walk away without damage, the only person who loses out is the poor child who was sexually abused.

Louise Livesey // Posted 19 March 2009 at 9:39 am

Not true – in limited (very limited) circumstances sex with a child under 16 is not an offence. That involves a set of circumstances in which the child fully gives informed consent and the perpetrator has reasonable grounds (above and beyond the child’s word for it) that the child is over 16. That is it’s not an offence is there is a genuine and sustainable belief that the child isn’t a child.

But you are mistaking the issue here – this isn’t about whether an under 16 consented to sex with a boyfriend. This is about the systematic sexual exploitation of a child.

I didn’t use the term Statutory Rape as far as I can see in my comments so not sure what that’s about…and you can assert all you want about what will now happen, I disagree, but you know what’s more important – that someone listens to this child. That someone takes the time to talk through what happened and supports the child. That’s what’s needed.

Kez // Posted 19 March 2009 at 9:49 am

If, as stated, the money was taken from her as the “proceeds of crime”, I’m interested to know what happened to the agency’s cut? Not saying she should have been allowed to keep the money (actually I think that’s the least of the worries regarding this case – though I do kind of see David’s point that the unfortunate effect may just be to force her back into the same or even riskier behaviour to earn it back, unless she is supported not to do so), but it seems grossly unfair that the agency which benefited from this child’s exploitation should not be similarly penalised, quite apart from the criminal prosecution which they should be facing.

Cara // Posted 19 March 2009 at 2:56 pm

Poor kid.

Yeah – exactly as Louise said in the original article, and as Kez just said, it’s this girl that has suffered, & not the agency or clients.

I do kind of see David’s point – taking the money from her is not going to help, and could push her back into prostitution (or into selling drugs, or…) – and as Polly Styrene said, selling sex in itself is not a crime, so what’s with the ‘proceeds of crime’?

This is the worst kind of moralising.

The agency and clients should be prosecuted.

The girl should be helped – you’d think the police would ask why a 14 year old needs that amount of money. Something is not right there.

David // Posted 20 March 2009 at 1:42 pm

This girl needs all the help and support she can get to move on and to not be sucked back into this line of work. I just think that the moralising of the magistrates and the seizure of the money is neither giving help nor support. There’s a very real danger that it will just drive the girl back into the sexual abuse (and drugs, etc) that she should be protected from.

The whole case disgusts me, from the agency who employed her to the men who actually slept with her to the moralising magistrates who seized the money.

The only people who benefit from this sorry saga are the politicians and police officers who should have been protecting her. She gets the sexual abuse, they get the cash. Doesn’t seem very fair or just to me.

john // Posted 27 June 2009 at 5:55 pm

although this trubles me much that a girl of this age can convince a agency that she is old enough without the need for i.d or even purchase items for sexual nature without question

this raisers the question is it not time the govement regulated the industry {like sweden etc} legalized it through a govement watch dog and remove these profit mongering agencys off the market if not to protect the girls and punters but also children who find this a lucrative sorce of money

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