THE MYTH OF BRITAIN'S FOREIGN SEX SLAVES; for Years, Labour Ministers Have Insisted That Thousands of Women Are Being Smuggled into Britain and Forced into Prostitution. but When Police Staged a Multi-Million-Pound Operation to Smash the Gangs Involved, How Many Traffickers Did They Find? Not One; SPECIAL INVESTIGATION
Byline: by Tom Rawstorne
THE OVERBLOWN language was more red-top tabloid than heavyweight Government announcement. Issued by the Home Office, the press release bragged about the success of the largest-ever police crackdown on human trafficking -- 'one of the worst crimes threatening our society'.
Breathlessly it went on to detail how women were being brought to this country and then 'sold as commodities for the purposes of sexual exploitation'. But now, it continued, thanks to nationwide police operation Pentameter 2, a staggering 528 criminals involved in this 'abhorrent crime' had been arrested.
'At its core, this operation was about striking a blow against one of the most distressing aspects of serious and organised crime in this country -- that of people-trafficking for sexual exploitation,' said Dr Tim Brain, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire and the man who headed the operation, announcing the figures in July 2008.
Also keen to weigh in with her observations was the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. 'Pentameter 2 has been a great success,' she said. 'I would commend all those involved who have made a real impact in rescuing victims and bringing to justice those who exploit them.' As intended, the media lapped it up, encouraged by Dr Brain's claim that the number of trafficked sex workers in Britain was actually 18,000 -- five times more than previous highest estimates.
No doubt the Home Office was delighted with the coverage its press release achieved. But not any more. Fifteen months on and those words have come back to haunt them with a vengeance.
Last month, an investigation by the Guardian newspaper disclosed what Pentameter 2 had really achieved -- the conviction of not one genuine sex trafficker.
An official review of the operation found that of the 528 arrests, almost one quarter were wrongly recorded.
Of the remainder, the vast majority of suspects were released without charge or charged with non-trafficking offences. That left just a handful of individuals appearing in court on sex trafficking charges.
But of the 15 actually convicted, it was accepted in ten of the cases that the individuals involved had never coerced the prostitutes they worked with. The remaining five were convicted of importing women and forcing them to work as prostitutes -- but those convictions stemmed from operations that pre-dated Pentameter 2. With hindsight, the 'great success' announced by Miss Smith now looks like nothing of the sort. But, worse still, is that the failure of this operation is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Academics and experts say that for years they have been warning the Government that the number of trafficked women working in the sex industry is far fewer than was being claimed.
But despite these warnings, they say that Labour ministers and other feminist-dominated organisations have repeatedly relied upon these distorted figures to further their own vested interests and political agendas. As a result, it seems likely that millions of pounds of public funding has been spent trying to fix a problem that is far less widespread than portrayed.
Of course, many women experience unimaginable horrors when working in the sex industry -- and it is despicable that in this day and age they are reduced to selling themselves.
But this makes it even more vitally important that the Government has accurate statistics and facts to hand so they can tackle the many problems presented by the murky world of the sex worker.
What is also causing concern is the way that the fears about sex trafficking have been used as leverage to launch a moral crusade designed to ban prostitution outright. Legislation which will make it a crime for someone to pay for sex where the person providing the sex was 'coerced' in some way is currently going through its final Parliamentary phase.
While many would no doubt support steps aimed at clamping down on the sex trade, experts in the field warn that this law will not only be unworkable, but will put prostitutes at greater risk. …