I lost my child-like 17 year old niece to a Holbeck rapist who escaped conviction by claiming she was a prostitute

I live in the Beeston area and was close to my sister, Cheryl. Cheryl had three children, the youngest is Sally. We haven’t had much luck as a family. When Sally was just 15, her mum died. The family rallied round and Sally remained close to family members, especially her gran (my mother.) Sally has learning difficulties and eventually her social worker felt she’d be better off moving into supported accommodation. She was given a place in Harehills aged 16 where she was happy.

I suppose I should explain a little more about Sally. At the time she was attacked, in summer 2015, she was 17 and still living in Harehills. Her learning difficulties meant that she was rather child-like, more like a young 12 year old. The aim was to help build her independence. She had a bus pass and loved to travel back to Holbeck & Beeston to meet friends and family. Sally’s learning difficulties were immediately obvious to anyone who met her.

On the day she was attacked she had gone to visit a friend in Holbeck as she’d done independently many times before. Sally didn’t have a mobile phone, so she just set out on the trip hoping her friend would be in and enjoying the ride. She liked going out and having little day trips with her free disabled bus pass. Her friend wasn’t at home so Sally went back to the bus stop near City Evangelical Church and waited for the bus home. It was 2pm on a weekday afternoon. While she was waiting a man pulled his car up to the bus stop and started making small talk with her. He offered to give her a lift into Leeds instead of having to wait for the bus. Sally refused his offer but he became insistent that he wanted to give her a lift. As she would not accept he eventually got out of the car and forced her into it.

The man drove Sally to a house on Stratford Street in Beeston, not far away. He dragged her from the car into the house and raped her. After a while he went to the toilet and she ran for her life. She escaped and ran to a house opposite. The neighbours immediately tried to help and took her in. The police were called and the man was arrested. DNA evidence was obtained and the police seemed really confident they would secure a conviction. Due to the attack being so serious he wasn’t let out on bail. He stayed in prison on remand right up to the court date which I think was in October 2015.

“despite her mental age being 12, Sally was forced to testify in court”

My mother told the family that the attack had been so humiliating and degrading for Sally that it would be in Sally’s best interests if her own family were not told the full details. As a result we were asked not to even attend court. My mother went alone with Sally to court without the rest of the family.

Up to this point the proceedings had gone as well as could be expected… but a sad twist of fate meant that the court date fell after Sally’s 18th birthday. The defence forced her to appear and testify in open court, even though she had the mental age of a child. She was torn to shreds. The defence barrister argued that Sally was a prostitute and had been “waiting for business” at the bus stop. She really struggled to answer the aggressive questioning and just fell to pieces.

Even so, the police were shocked when the defendant was found not guilty. All he had to do was claim she was a prostitute and it was apparently believable because she was standing in an area where street prostitution occurs on a daily basis.

What you need to understand about the “managed approach for prostitution” is that it covers a small area of industrial Holbeck but the women & punters spread out way beyond the boundaries of the “zone.” As a result street prostitution is evident over a much larger area, including residential streets. This is why residents are campaigning for the zone to be closed.

We can’t protect the women of Holbeck and Beeston. When women are attacked the men involved can simply claim “I thought she was a prostitute!” and get away with it. Holbeck is the only area in Leeds where men can abduct and rape local women and get away with it. (Read Alice’s story here)

After the trial Sally completely lost her way in life. She got into an abusive relationship with a man and got pregnant. She desperately wanted to keep her baby but social services recommended he be adopted as Sally wasn’t mentally capable of raising a child alone. We haven’t seen her for a while now… she’s lost touch with her family.

I keep thinking about the defence barrister. To him it was just a job: keep his client out of jail no matter what. He was willing to put a rapist back onto the streets and condemn poor Sally to a life of hell. My family have lost confidence in the justice system and those who were supposed to protect us. Sally’s case is well known locally and I’ve been very vocal about it. I’m still so angry.

The residents need help and we need a solution. I don’t know what the solution is but I believe that if we prosecuted sex buyers and cleared the streets of kerb crawlers men would not be able to say “I thought she was a prostitute” in future.

Interview by Paula, Save Our Eyes Committee. This article is strictly copyright and may not be reproduced without permission.

Community leaders education event: watch the videos here

An education event for local community leaders was held at Holbeck Club on 21st June 2018.  Attendees included church leaders, Holbeck Neighbourhood Forum, local councillors, police officers and businesses.

Video 1 One of the brave ladies on this video asked for her identity to be concealed so the top of the video is hidden. Lisa & Claire spoke about their lives as heroin addicts at the recent educational event held for community leaders in Holbeck, Leeds. Lisa shoplifted to fund her addiction and Claire was forced into prostitution by her pimp/boyfriend. They tell their stories about life on the streets and how they were eventually freed with the help of international charity, Teen Challenge UK.

Alan Caton, Former detective superintendent of Ipswich Police talks about their programme to end street prostitution in the city.

Alan led the team that removed street prostitution from Ipswich in the UK. The approach was based on the Nordic Model and combined a comprehensive package of support for the women with a zero tolerance approach to kerb crawling. Presentation was at Holbeck Club, Leeds on 21st June 2018.

Fiona was forced into prostitution aged 15 and spent 11 years trapped in the sex industry. She exited 22 years ago and became a leading campaigner for the rights of prostituted women. She is an advisor to the UK government and the EU.

Fiona is part of SPACE International

The Oxfam scandal in Haiti: why does it matter to Leeds?

The Oxfam scandal in Haiti: why does it matter to Leeds?

Opinion:

 

The Oxfam Haiti scandal: why does it matter to Leeds?

If you’ve listened to the national news over the last couple of days you’ll have heard the media outrage regarding the story of several Oxfam staff being sacked for choosing to visit local prostitutes whilst on aid work in Haiti.  This may seem a world away but the story has a relevance to our lives in Holbeck. 

 

Firstly, we understand the Oxfam staff used their own money to buy sexual services from women who were adults and seemingly willing to participate. Why were these women willing?  It’s easy to see that their poverty made them willing… perhaps we could even say that poverty forced them into prostitution?
In Leeds we have a similar situation: we know that 90% of prostituted women working the streets of Holbeck are drug addicts.  They are under a financial pressure to perform sexual services, it’s the only way they can afford their drugs.
Can we agree that both the Haitian women and the Holbeck women are essentially in the same situation?  Both are “choosing” to work as prostitutes but it’s not a real choice.  It’s their only choice.
So this brings us to the matter of the media coverage.  Hmm… what a difference!  In Leeds we are told by the experts at Safer Leeds and the Police that prostitution is a “proper job” the world’s oldest profession… so the City should give the sex industry a zone in which to operate freely to make work better for the women.
The same experts teach us that there is nothing wrong with men paying for the services of the women who choose to engage in these “proper jobs.”
Those in the community who oppose the “managed approach” are criticised as unsympathetic to the women, NIMBY’s or overly moralistic.
Yet compare that to the media coverage of the Haitian issue.  If there is nothing wrong with men paying for sexual services then why did Oxfam sack the men involved?  The same men would have been welcomed to abuse Leeds women for money.
The UK government is threatening to withdraw funding to charities that allow their staff to abuse women overseas.  Yet the UK offers an abuse zone in the heart of Leeds?  It seems the government are working on a 2-tier system when it comes to morality. On the one hand they are damning in their criticism (and rightly so) regarding the abuse of women in troubled zones who when presented with the chance to earn money so that their families can eat they take it. On the other hand the government legislates a legal prostitution area where the women who are in this sad existence are encouraged to carry on instead of being given help to lift them out of it.
It doesn’t make sense.  We believe that people should be opposed to the sexual slavery of women all around the world OR support it all around the world.  Holbeck women deserve the same rights as Haitian women. The abuse of women is wrong, no matter where it happens in the world.
– Laura Walton.
Laura is a Holbeck resident and runs a business in the area.  She is standing in the Leeds City Council elections as an independent candidate to try and improve the situation in Holbeck.

Women and Equalities Committee in Parliament Survey on street harassment

Ladies of Holbeck & Beeston Hill we need you!

 

The Women and Equalities Committee in Parliament are doing a consultation on the harassment of women and girls in the street.
Save Our Eyes will gather your stories and submit them on behalf of the community.

They want to ask us:

“What evidence, if any, is there of links between harmful attitudes and other behaviours such as paying for sex or using pornography?”

Please send us your stories!

Have you ever been kerb crawled?  Asked for sex at the bus stop?  Confronted near the chemists? Pestered by the Post Office?

Have you received offensive remarks because men in the area assumed you must be offering your services to them?  After all, why else would you be out in the street?!!

You can write about your experiences in the comments section below or email them to the Save Our Eyes Committee using the contact form.

Please send your comments and stories by 23rd February to allow us time to compile them for submission.

Thank you!

Contact the Save Our Eyes committee here.  This form is also for media contact enquires.

 

We aim to respond within 24 hours so please check your spam folder. 

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