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Archive for February 9th, 2012

The art of the police is not to see what it is useless that it should see.  –  Napoleon Bonaparte

Most of the updates featured on this blog are indirect; in other words, they’re new stories which call to mind some feature of the issue covered in the updated column, but usually aren’t direct sequels.  When I reread my column of one year ago today, however, I discovered that not only both of the covered stories, but also the column itself, deserved direct updating.  It took a bit of digging to uncover anything about the case of Jimmy Dac Ho, a Florida cop (with a long history of bizarre loose-cannon behavior) who murdered an escort on January 31st of last year, but this October 6th article from the Palm Beach Post seems to be the most recent news:

Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against a former…police officer accused of fatally shooting a Boynton Beach escort…48-year-old Jimmy Dac Ho…was arrested on murder charges in February after 29-year-old Sheri Carter died of a gunshot wound she received during an encounter with Ho at her apartment.  Investigators say Carter was an escort who advertised her services on a website that has factored in numerous prostitution and human trafficking investigations.  Ho…made conflicting claims of self-defense and fear of robbery after his arrest [and] was briefly hospitalized when he tried to hang himself inside his jail cell.  He is still in jail but did not appear…at a hearing to check on the status of his first-degree murder case.  Attorneys…say they could be ready for a trial as soon as January, but defense attorney Elizabeth Ramsey said she still needs to review the large amount of evidence…

I contacted the reporter, Daphne Duret, and she told me the next status check was set for February 29th.  Notice the way that the system is working to shield a murdering cop from the full consequences of his actions; prosecutors aren’t seeking the death penalty despite the fact that Ho admitted to murder, and the “investigators” are making absolutely sure that everyone knows his victim was “only” a whore and implying that the website on which she advertised somehow shares the blame.  Even the mention of the bête du jour, “human trafficking”, is a clear attempt at misdirecting public attention from the real monster.

Last year’s column also presented the case of Hanna Morris, who was tricked by the Surrey police into revealing information they claimed would be used to prosecute thugs who had robbed and threatened her escorts, but was actually used to prosecute her for brothel-keeping.  She filed suit against the police for their crime against her, but that of course failed so she and her partners were forced to plead guilty, as reported in Get Surrey last April 4th:

Three people who ran a number of brothels across Surrey have avoided jail terms.  Hanna Morris, 28…was sentenced to 12 months in jail, suspended for two years…[and] ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work.  Her partner, Michael Jones was also  sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work…Valerie Coster…received a 16-week jail term, suspended for 12 months…[and] 120 hours of unpaid service.  All three entered guilty pleas after failing in an abuse of power case against Surrey Police…

The police attack on Morris was not motivated by mere sadism but rather by profit; the “Proceeds of Crime” law allows police to rob those they prosecute, so even though her sentence was suspended, Morris’ home and life savings were stolen from her – a fact the mainstream press didn’t bother mentioning.  The thugs who threatened Morris and her ladies were dangerous and poor, but Morris was a wealthy sitting duck so the police victimized her instead.  As the English Collective of Prostitutes pointed out:

Prosecutions for brothel-keeping and other prostitution charges have risen since the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act [from 3 in 2004, to 11 in 2005, to 39 in 2006, to 41 in 2007].  Under that law, the police keep 50% of assets confiscated during raids and 25% from subsequent prosecutions, with the Crown Prosecution Service keeping another 25%.  Concerns have been raised that this desire to profit is fuelling raids and arrests, distorting police priorities and encouraging police corruption.

Unlike similar concerns in the US, however, these appear to be taken seriously by some UK government actors; last Friday I reported that the Association of Chief Police Officers (represented by Simon Byrne, recently appointed assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard) now supports decriminalization, and that several politicians agree.  As the above-linked Harlot’s Parlour column explains, another high-profile brothel-keeping case was dropped on January 4th:

Sheila Farmer, a sex worker who worked with other women…for safety had charges of brothel-keeping dismissed today in Croydon Crown Court.  She worked with other women since being viciously raped and attacked whilst working alone…she…suffers from severe diabetes and a malignant brain tumour.  Her doctor had provided evidence that an onerous and stressful trial would have exacerbated her condition…Farmer [said]:  “Whilst I’m relieved not to be facing trial I am angry that I was prosecuted.  Will the person who made that decision now be held accountable for the 18 months of distress and upset I have suffered while waiting for this case to come to court?  Safety and survival has always been my priority.  Like hundreds of other women I was working to support my son and more recently to pay for cancer treatment.  I would never have got through this ordeal without the English Collective of Prostitutes…

Cari Mitchell [of the ECP said]…“Sheila Farmer’s bravery in publicly fighting these charges should be commended.  She, like many other sex workers, should never have been forced to choose between safety and legality.  Why is it legal to work alone but not with others?  The prostitution laws are endangering women and should be abolished…”  Ms Farmer’s trial was thrown out because of police and prosecution incompetence – witnesses had not been asked to attend court and a key witness could not be found.  Ms Farmer has attended court six times and the case has been listed to start on two previous occasions…

The conviction of two of Stephen Lawrence’s murderers reminds us once again that the priorities of police and prosecution fly in the face of public opinion.  Why did it take 18 years to try and convict these dangerous criminals while sex workers who do no harm are quickly arrested and jailed?  The ECP has received multiple reports of violent robberies by a gang of five men in East London.  The only police action has been to threaten the victims with prosecution.  Why are women who report violence arrested while their attackers are not pursued?…

I think my readers know the answers to these rhetorical questions, but it’s important that they be asked repeatedly in public until government persecution of prostitutes is stopped completely.

One final note; “To Protect and Serve” was linked and referenced by Dr. Brooke Magnanti (AKA Belle de Jour) in a guest blog on a feminist website last March, leading to a firestorm of controversy and a battle royale between garbage-vomiting neofeminist prohibitionists and sane, reasonable sex worker rights advocates (including Dr. Laura Agustín, regular reader Sina More and myself).  I described the incident in “Cognitive Impairment”, and one well-researched post on that thread by a commenter called “Eva” was so informative that I later drew heavily on it for an important column that I still reference quite often.  Every column has an effect on those that follow, but it’s rare that an unassuming daily post based on two current events produces ripples that are still spreading a year later.

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