Brothels and human trafficking rife in Westminster

PUBLISHED: 16:51 12 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:22 07 September 2010

Westminster has become a Mecca for advertised sexual services, according to a new report. The borough was found to have 71 brothels – more than any other area in London – according to the study by the Poppy Project. Male researchers from the charity, whic

Westminster has become a Mecca for advertised sexual services, according to a new report.

The borough was found to have 71 brothels - more than any other area in London - according to the study by the Poppy Project.

Male researchers from the charity, which offers support for women trafficked into prostitution, surveyed more than 921 brothels around the capital.

Posing as potential clients, they used adverts placed in local newspapers to contact the hundreds of sex rackets.

Many were discovered to be offering full intercourse for as little as £15, while a number charged just £10 extra for unprotected oral and anal sex.

Helen Atkins, the report's co-author, said the disturbing findings show how the sex industry has spread to almost every corner of the capital.

She said: "It has been said that we are never more than six feet away from a rat in London.

"Apparently, something similar applies to brothels - places where thousands of women are regularly exploited by men who buy sex.

"Multi-media misrepresentations of commercial sex as a glamorous, easy and fun career choice for girls and women further contribute to the ubiquity of London's brothel industry.

"However, for most women involved in prostitution, the reality is a cycle of violence and coercion, perpetuated by poverty and inequality."

The research also exposed a strong element of human trafficking in the brothels surveyed, with women from more than 75 different ethnicities being represented. And 85 per cent of the premises were operating in residential areas.

Westminster's director for community protection, Dean Ingle-dew, said while the council is working with the police to tackle the problem of brothels their main priority is on-street sex workers in hot spots such as Paddington.

He added that this was due that greater impact this type of prostitution had on the local neighbourhood.

But Paddington community safety campaigner, Linda King Taylor, chairwoman of Westminster North policing partnership, said: "A lot of people do not object if the vice is behind closed doors.

"However what goes on behind closed doors can be worse. It can be much more aggressive and abusive than on street corners.

"It's all very well for people to say they want brothels to be legal - unless the brothel's next door to them. The more serious problem is that vice rings are organised human trafficking.

"We have to kill the problem with border controls and preventing underage girls being brought into this country."

In a recent police operation in Westminster, officers raided 25 brothels and arrested 15 people and recovered 30 women.

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