Women who say they were forced into sex work as teenagers will no longer have to reveal their criminal convictions for soliciting to potential employers after winning a battle in the high court.
The women successfully argued that the disclosure of convictions for working in the sex trade many years ago was disproportionate and a breach of their Article 8 Human Rights – the right to a private life.
Fiona Broadfoot, who fought the legal challenge along with two other women, said she was delighted that two senior judges had ruled that forcing them to reveal past prostitution convictions was unlawful.
All three women were forced into sex work as teenagers and each have multiple convictions for soliciting or loitering under the Street Offences Act.
The women argued they have been stigmatized by the existing law, which requires people convicted of crimes to disclose their past when applying for a range of jobs or volunteering activity after DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks.
Mr Justice Holroyde, sitting with Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, said: “We accept that the claimants have all suffered a handicap in the labour market, and have suffered embarrassment and humiliation.”
Broadfoot, who waived her right to anonymity and has campaigned for 20 years to prevent women in her situation having to disclose past convictions, said she felt vindicated.
She said that forcing women to disclose their records meant they could never move on. “I am 50 this year, and this happened in 1988,” she said. “That was my last alleged criminal offence that was never a criminal offence anyway. It is absolutely ridiculous that I have had to live with this all these years.”
“In our view, it should be and is possible for parliament to devise a scheme which more fairly balances the public interest with the rights of an individual applicant for employment in relevant areas of work.”
The ruling means that any convictions for soliciting will now be “filtered out” when it comes to DBS checks – although how this will be done is still to be determined.
I never felt more satisfied or optimistic than when I rode the river in my youth.