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JUDGE'S REFUSAL TO ISSUE ASBO TO PROSTITUTE OVERTURNED

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The Chief Constable of Lancashire today had a major success in his battle to eradicate prostitution in a residentia...
The Chief Constable of Lancashire today had a major success in his battle to eradicate prostitution in a residential area of Preston.

At London's High Court, he had challenged a judge's refusal to issue an antisocial behaviour order against prostitute Lisa Marie Potter - who is now serving a prison sentence for drug-dealing.

And two top judges ruled that deputy district judge Alan Lloyd Jones, who refused to issue the order in July last year after a hearing at Preston Magistrates Court, had 'erred in law'.

In a ruling of importance to all police forces, Lord Justice Auld, sitting with Mr Justice Goldring, ordered Judge Jones to reconsider the chief constable's application for an ASBO against Miss Potter.

The chief constable went to court to tackle the growing problem of prostitutes soliciting punters in St Mary's Street North - a residential area near the centre of Preston.

Judge Jones heard at the magistrates court hearing that 'aggravated' problems associated with around 80 prostitutes, not all of whom worked at the same time, included:

  • Condoms and used syringes being left in the street and in the grounds of a Mosque

  • 'Respectable' females being too scared to walk the streets in the area for fear of attack or harassment from kerb crawlers and irate residents

  • Sex acts being performed in doorways

  • Violent attacks

  • Uninvited boarding of vehicles being driven by lone males.

    But the judge said although Ms Potter was a convicted prostitute, he couldn't be sure beyond 'reasonable doubt' that she was guilty of doing more than looking for trade.

    He refused to rule that, taken by itself, Miss Potter's behaviour created 'a likelihood of causing harassment, alarm and distress'.

    Overturning the decision, Lord Justice Auld said Judge Jones had wrongly applied the civil - rather than the higher, criminal - standard of proof when considering the chief constable's appli cation.

    He had also 'wrongly applied the standard of proof to the facts' of the case and the central issue of whether Miss Potter's conduct was 'likely to have caused harassment, alarm or distress'.

    The judge added: 'Street prostitution in residential areas, whatever the extremes of behaviour by individual prostitutes, is clearly capable ... of causing or being likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.'

    The issue of whether an individual prostitute's behaviour had contributed to the 'substantial problem' of prostitution in the area depended on the facts of each individual case.

    Lord Justice Auld agreed with Miss Potter's lawyers that it was not every case of street prostitution that justified an ASBO being issued. It was 'a matter of fact and degree', depending on the severity of the problem and the behaviour of individual prostitutes.

    But, overturning Judge Jones' decision and ordering him to reconsider the case, the judge concluded: 'I am of the view that the deputy district judge erred in law and in his findings of fact on this issue.'

    Mr Michael Hayton, for Miss Potter, told the court today that she is now serving a prison sentence at Stile Prison for supplying Class A drugs to an undercover officer.

    He told the court Miss Potter, who was legally aided, has a drugs problem herself and had been caught as part of a large-scale police anti-drugs operation in the north-west of England.

    STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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