Combined operations of police and other security forces in the UK in 2008 used fear of white slavery and sex slave operations as a cover for increased arrests against sex workers, under the name "Operation Pentameter Two". A second parameter, a legal umbrella under which they can operate in ways they would not be allowed to ordinarily? It wouldn't be the first "Operation" with a double meaning.

Politicians and the media, wittingly or unwittingly, misrepresented sex work as sex slavery on a massive scale, when there was in fact none at all to be found.[1] Some parliament ministers even distorted the available facts, or worse yet, fabricated claims of "thousands of women...forced to work as sex slaves"

The UK's biggest ever investigation of sex trafficking failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution in spite of hundreds of raids on sex workers in a six-month campaign by government departments, specialist agencies and every police force in the country - The Guardian[1]

The vast majority of arrests were of innocent people, not even charged, 'illegal immigrants' or those charged with possession, sex work, brothel management, even driving offenses; 384 of the 406 total, or almost 95%. 122 arrests, out of the Operation Pentameter Two report's stated total of 528, were FAKES.[2]

Guardian investigation Edit

The Guardian investigated the results of the investigation, and after a legal battle, found "a very different picture" than what was claimed by Operation Pentameter Two in their report of July 2008.

122 of the 528 arrests announced by the security forces and police were fakes, wrongly recorded. For whatever reason, the forces were "trying to chalk up arrests which they had not made." Among the 406 real arrests, over 55% of those arrested (230) were women, and most were never implicated in trafficking at all. 10 of the 55 police forces not only did not arrest anyone, but never found any suspects to arrest.

False figures Edit

Those figures credited Pentameter with "arresting 528 criminals associated with one of the worst crimes threatening our society". But an internal police analysis of Pentameter, obtained by the Guardian after a lengthy legal struggle, paints a very different picture...

Of the 406 real arrests, 153 had been released weeks before the police announced the success of the operation: 106 of them without any charge at all and 47 after being cautioned for minor offences. Most of the remaining 253 were not accused of trafficking: 73 were charged with immigration breaches; 76 were eventually convicted of non-trafficking offences involving drugs, driving or management of a brothel; others died, absconded or disappeared off police records.

Although police described the operation as "the culmination of months of planning and intelligence-gathering from all those stakeholders involved", the reality was that, during six months of national effort, they found only 96 people to arrest for trafficking, of whom 67 were charged.

Forty-seven of those never made it to court.

Only 22 people were finally prosecuted for trafficking, including two women who had originally been "rescued" as supposed victims. Seven of them were acquitted. The end result was that, after raiding 822 brothels, flats and massage parlours all over the UK, Pentameter finally convicted of trafficking a grand total of only 15 men and women.

Police claimed that Pentameter used the international definition of sex trafficking contained in the UN's Palermo protocol, which involves the use of coercion or deceit to transport an unwilling man or woman into prostitution. But, in reality, Pentameter used a very different definition, from the UK's 2003 Sexual Offences Act, which makes it an offence to transport a man or woman into prostitution even if this involves assisting a willing sex worker.

Internal police documents reveal that 10 of Pentameter's 15 convictions were of men and women who were jailed on the basis that there was no evidence of their coercing the prostitutes they had worked with. There were just five men who were convicted of importing women and forcing them to work as prostitutes. These genuinely were traffickers, but none of them was detected by Pentameter, although its investigations are still continuing.

Two of them — Zhen Xu and Fei Zhang — had been in custody since March 2007, a clear seven months before Pentameter started work in October 2007.

The other three, Ali Arslan, Edward Facuna and Roman Pacan, were arrested and charged as a result of an operation which began when a female victim went to police in April 2006, well over a year before Pentameter Two began, although the arrests were made while Pentameter was running.[1]

Media coverage of the story Edit

MSNBC not only carried the story about the operation, under the lurid title "Sex Slaves: UK" on their network, but repeated the erroneous arrest and "rescued" statistics. The show aired over one and a half years after the Guardian story that decried the falsified statistics and debunked the value of the operation.[3] They continue to repeat the show with no retractions, as late as April 2012, over two years after the Guardian story.

Government acting on the basis of the false information Edit

The government produced a bill on the basis of the report, which was moving through its final parliamentary phase in Oct 2009. Sex workers believed that the bill would do more harm than good, giving disincentives to or penalizing safe behaviour, and giving relative rewards to behaviour that runs the risk of dangers that might exist.

The bottom line, or, When Governments Attack Edit

The stated objectives of the Operation are in hindsight quite chilling. There is at best a lack of appreciation of the difference between sex workers and sex slaves, if not a deliberate attempt at obfuscation, with terminology such as "exploitation"

But worst of all, there is no attempt at all to make the 'benefits' of disrupting the lives of a thousand citizens seem any more ethical than a pillaging expedition by a Viking raiding party. If Vikings had made it back with a cool half a million pounds sterling. From the Siren report on the Operation Parameter Two plans:

KEY OBJECTIVE 3: To fully utilise the powers afforded by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 by ensuring maximum disruption to criminal activities and that those responsible are stripped of their assets.

Through UKP2 investigations to date, over £500,000 cash has been seized and over £3 million in further assets were initially restrained pending further investigation. This figure may increase through subsequent investigations. Financial attack was further adopted through the Criminal Taxes Unit of HM Revenue and Customs. Intelligence concerning possible further targets has been passed to HMRC for further investigation and follow-up. [4]

Citations Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Inquiry fails to find single trafficker who forced anybody into prostitution, Nick Davies The Guardian, Monday 19 October 2009
  2. The revised report, obtained by the Guardian using Freedom of Information legislation, released by the Guardian
  3. Sex Slaves: UK, MSNBC, airdate 22nd May, 2011
  4. Strategic Information Response Network
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