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Police have arrested more than people for allegedly keeping brothels since , according to figures obtained by Sky News. Hundreds of people have been arrested for alleged brothel-keeping offences in the last four years under laws that sex workers claim put them at risk. Police forces have detained at least suspects in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since the start of , according to data obtained by Sky News under the Freedom of Information Act.
While selling sex is legal in the UK, keeping a brothel - defined as more than one sex worker working from premises - is not.
As the English Collective of Prostitutes tells sex workers on its website: "If you work with someone else in a flat you can be done for running a brothel, even if you are not there at the same time. Emily, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, began working in the industry in the s and went back to it after becoming a single mother. She called it "draconian" that she could end up with at least seven years in prison for running the flat if caught by police.
Countries like New Zealand have decriminalised sex work - including brothel-keeping - which Emily supports. She and other sex workers want decriminalisation in the UK because they believe it would give them the same legal protection and access to workers' rights as in other industries.
They've all got their own reasons for being there and actually quite enjoy doing what they're doing a lot of the time. Emily has looked for other opportunities for work, but this is currently her best option for making ends meet. She is "disappointed" and "saddened" that police are still making arrests for alleged brothel-keeping during the pandemic, and said many sex workers have fallen into hardship while unable to work during strict lockdown measures. If anything were to happen to her at work she wouldn't be able to call the police for fear of being arrested.