Prosecution – United Kingdom

Please note:
The following section, Prosecution – United Kingdom, contains information on the legal situation in the UK. If conditions are different in individual regions, for example in Scotland, this will be indicated.

1. Crimes
2. Making a Police Statement
3. Consequences

This section refers to situations in which migrant sex workers are subjected to criminal investigation:

If, for example in a raid, police pick up an immigrant sex worker who has no residence permit and/or no work permit, they will initiate an inquiry against her regarding immigration offences.

Criminal proceedings will also be initiated if the woman has committed an offence in another matter. In these cases the woman is an accused party.


1. Crimes

Working as a sex worker can be penalised as a crime in the following cases:

  • soliciting, loitering or importuning any person in the street or public place, if it is practised outside toleration zones and within these toleration zones if is practised outwith tolerated times (see Work)
  • if the woman works without an adequate work permit, if necessary (see Work)
  • facilitation of prostitution
  • pimping: procuring of a female for prostitution
  • allowing premises to be used as a brothel (i.e. all establishments/apartments that have more than one prostitute working)
  • keeping, managing or acting or assisting in the management of a brothel
  • being the tenant, lessee, occupier or person in charge of any premises who knowingly permits these premises to be used as a brothel
  • a male person knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution or
  • persistently importuning or soliciting in public for immoral purposes (Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 section 11(1)(b)).
Please note:
Prostitution in itself is not illegal.

2. Making a Police Statement

A. Right to Remain Silent

When a police officer has a suspicion that a person has committed or is committing an offence at any place, s/he may require that person to give her name and address and ask her for an explanation of the circumstances that have given rise to the suspicion. The suspected person has a right to remain silent in these cases; a common law caution advises that she is entitled to remain silent but anything said may be used in evidence.
Please note:
If a woman is unsure whether she is questioned as a suspect or as a witness, she should always practice her right to remain silent.

B. Interpreter

The suspect/accused is entitled to the services of an interpreter in her own language. If she feels unable to trust the interpretor, she should tell the police.

C. Lawyer

The accused is entitled to her lawyer´s presence at the hearing.
Hint: Memorise a lawyer’s telephone number!

D. Custody

The police are entitled to detain a suspect for a maximum of 24 hours in a police station. This duration commences from the moment a suspect who has been arrested enters the police station. Following the introduction of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, this limit can be extended by a police officer of at least the rank of superintendent to 36 hours. This power should only be used sparingly and only where there is full justification.
The woman has the right to remain silent but anything said may be used in evidence. There is the right to answer only in the presence of a solicitor.
Please note:
The promise of release in return for cooperation is illegal.
Please note:
In Scotland the police are entitled to detain a suspect for no more than six hours in a police station without being charged. The six hours begins immediately upon detention, not on arrival at a police station.
If the woman is charged with a crime after these six hours, she would be arrested. After arrest the woman must either be taken before a Court the next court day or be released. The woman most likely will be released on bail, except in the case of very serious crimes, such as murder. In Scotland bail does not consist on any financial payment or deposit, but in the case of foreign nationals, the suspect’s passport may be confiscated. In case of a guilty plea, or where the crime is serious, the woman may be remanded in custody pending trial. This will mean that her trial date must be set within 110 days.

Any foreign national must appear before a judge before deportation can be ordered. Usually detention in this circumstance will not be in police custody but in a detention centre.

Please note:
If a woman is detained, she should always get in touch with a lawyer and an advisory centre. The advisor may visit and support her.

E. Victims of Trafficking in Women

The woman may not only be accused, but also be a victim of trafficking in women or of other serious offences. In some cases, criminal proceedings against the woman might be halted.

Should this be the case, she should insist that police make contact to an advisory centre. Police responsibilities may include: informing victims/potential victims of their rights, to claim asylum or humanitarian protection, to obtain legal advice. For details see Victims of Crime.

3. Consequences

A. Immigration Offences

A woman who has committed an immigration offence (such as illegal residence, illegal employment) will be expelled from the UK if she does not have a residence permit and is not entitled to remain for humanitarian reasons (see information on Migration). In this case, she may be placed in remand pending deportation and subsequently be deported.

B. Other Crimes

Where other offences have been committed (e.g. theft, fraud etc.) the investigation authorities will initiate proceedings against the woman, criminal charge and legal proceedings may follow. If a criminal sentence passed, the woman may loose her right to residency. This depends on the severity of the sentence and the type of residence permit.
Please note:
If investigation proceedings are initiated against the woman, she should always seek a lawyer’s advice!
Scroll to Top