Former prostitutes to sue the Government as criminal records stop them volunteering
Former prostitutes are set to sue the Government over criminal records checks which stop them volunteering with Brownie groups.
A group of women will argue that policies which leave convictions for soliciting on their records are discriminatory and intrude into their private lives.
The women, most of whom are anonymous, say their convictions become known many years after they stopped working as prostitutes and have prevented them from taking up volunteering and job opportunities.
One anonymous claimant said: "It doesn’t matter what it is – trying to help out at my kids’ school or the local brownies’ coffee morning, trying to be a governor or a councillor, applying to education or training or employment – even volunteering in so many fields – with children, with the elderly, in care, with vulnerable people, with youth work, with social work – all need a DBS and then you get treated like some sort of pariah or sex offender.
"But it’s not fair – I never chose that life and I fought hard to get out of it but I’m always being pulled back to it as though that’s who I am, but it’s not who I am.”
The women's case, set to be heard in the High Court later this week, also argues that the policy to retain and disclose their conviction history goes against the Modern Slavery Act because they were trafficked and forced into prostitution while teenagers.
One claimant, Fiona Broadfoot, who began selling sex after meeting a pimp at 15, has a conviction of loitering for the purposes of being a common prostitute.
"After more than twenty years out of prostitution, I am still having to explain my criminal record to any prospective employer. It feels like explaining my history of abuse," she said.
Harriet Wistrich, solicitor at Birnberg Peirce who is acting for the women, said the current law "continues to punish victims".
The Home Office is understood to be defending the claim. A Government spokesperson said: "It would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing legal proceedings."