Outrage at court decision on sexworkers

Joel Avni

Joel Avni

Livid Cape Town officials promised to thwart a high court interdict preventing police from arresting street sexworkers.

Judge Burton Fourie found that South African Police Service officers and Metro cops had for years been arresting sexworkers knowing they would not be prosecuted.

The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce had brought the matter to court claiming that officers were merely harassing and intimidating sexworkers.

One of the sexworkers testified that she had been arrested 200 times in six years and had never been prosecuted. The former station commissioner of Claremont testified that 106 sexworkers had been arrested in 2006, but that none had been charged.

The judge found that police who arrested sexworkers knowing they would not be prosecuted were denying them their human rights guaranteed by the Constitution. He granted Sweat an interdict preventing the SAPS and city police from arresting sex workers "while knowing with a high degree of probability that no prosecution will follow".

Councillor Jean-Pierre Smith raged at the decision yesterday, promising that the city would start prosecutions in municipal courts.

"This is insanity," Smith said, a member of the municipal committee on safety and security and chairperson of the central Cape Town sub-council.

"This ruling will have a detrimental effect on the citizens of Cape Town because of the (national prosecuting authority's) inability to enforce the law.

"The lunatics are running the asylum."

NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali said he would consult senior prosecutors to determine why sexworkers were not being charged, but later switched off his cellphone.

Smith said the city had figures to prove that services provided by sexworkers led to more crime in areas where it was tolerated.

The SAPS legal service department was studying the judgment yesterday afternoon and a decision would be taken about an appeal, said Senior Superintendent Billy Jones.