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Camden New Journal - by PAUL KEILTHY
Published: 28 February 2008
The interior of the Touch of Class sauna following a major fire
The interior of the Touch of Class sauna following a major fire
Behind massage parlour front, the trafficked women forced to sell sex

Police reveal scale of ‘tolerated’ prostitution as Town Hall is urged to tighten licensing

THE Town Hall is issuing licences to sauna and massage parlours which police and human rights groups claim are brothels – and which may house exploited and trafficked women.
And Camden Council is accused of “complacency” for maintaining that, because details of trafficking are rarely reported, sexual exploitation is a matter for the police.
Research from the government-funded POPPY project suggests that in Camden there may be eight sauna and massage parlours with council-issued special treatment licences where sex is being sold, the highest figure for any borough in London.
POPPY official Helen Atkins, who oversees a project which helps trafficked women escape from prostitution, said: “I have an incredibly dim view of the procedures which surround special treatment licences. The more that are issued and used as a front for brothels, the more women will be exploited.”
Research by POPPY, due to be published next week, will show that victims of trafficking continue to report that they have been forced to work in Camden.
Earlier research, published in 2004, found two out of 10 trafficking victims surveyed had been forced to work in Camden. It recorded that more than 200 women work in prostitution in Camden.
Detective Inspector Gary Young heads up the clubs and vice unit, based on the fringes of Soho at Charing Cross police station. He is blunt about the scale of “tolerated” prostitution: “Of the massage parlours in the high street that I or my officers have dealt with, 98 per cent are fronts for prostitution, and I am happy to say that on the record. The specific ones advertising massage or sauna – these are fronts, brothels.”
Camden Council issues 188 massage and special treatment licences, but the majority of these are for hair, beauty, or nail treatment bars, with no alleged connection to prostitution.
The ambiguous status of licenced massage parlours was brought into sharp relief by the fire which killed a man and a woman at Touch of Class sauna in Royal College Street, Camden Town, in March last year.
The council was quick to point out that the special treatment licence the notorious parlour had held for 10 years had not been renewed after a police raid in 2005, which led to three men being jailed for a total of four years for controlling prostitution.
But the brothel had already been raided, in 2001, and a father-and-son team convicted of living on immoral earnings in 2002. The premises continued to operate under licence until the raid. Asked what would have prompted the raids, DI Young said that it had followed an “intelligence-led operation”, adding: “We would have to have information about juveniles or trafficked women, organised crime or coercion.”
The council’s Lib Dem leader, Cllr Keith Moffitt, was challenged by a Labour rival over the issue in January. Asked to “commit to develop a strategy on this in Camden and not turn a blind eye”, Cllr Moffitt said the council was “extremely concerned” about trafficking.
“The regulation of these premises is where police and council action comes together,” he added. “Clearly, the enforcement of the law in relation to brothels... and prostitution is a matter for the police and we support them in any way we can.”
He added that saunas and massage parlours were inspected annually by officials from the council’s health and safety team, to ensure they meet the conditions of their £4,245-a-year licence. “If premises are suspected of being involved in illegal activities, such as the running of a brothel, that information is passed to police for their action,” Cllr Moffitt said. The council had in the past contacted police over suspicions of trafficking, he added.
But the councillor who posed the question, Theo Blackwell, said the gap between council and police in enforcement was “complacent”. He added: “Everyone is caring about themselves in all this rather than the real risk that women are being exploited. The council could be doing a lot more than they are, and it’s of particular concern that the council appears to be issuing licences. Most local people would find it pretty disgraceful that they are making money on these licences.”

Hunt for fire sauna bosses

DETECTIVES are no closer to finding the managers of a massage parlour where two people died in a blaze nearly a year ago, writes Charlotte Chambers.

An uncovered window at A Touch Of Class sauna in Royal College Street, Camden Town, reveals the unseen world of sex-for-sale shops. Masseuse Perihan Djelal, 34, and housing officer Daniel Eamonn O’Halloran, 44, died in a blaze there last March. Inside the charred room is a double bed, a shower and a book on top of a table.
But this week detectives ad­mitt­ed their search for the managers of the sauna has drawn a blank. Detective Inspector John Marriott, who is leading the hunt, said: “It’s gone cold. There is one person we would like to speak to but they’ve disappeared.”
At an inquest last year a coroner ruled the deaths were an accident, caused by a candle.
DI Marriott said the ruling meant that if any charges were eventually brought they would be for fairly minor fire regulation offences.
In an emotional appeal, Ms Djelal’s daughter Leah Halil urged the managers to come forward. “People want answers and they should face up to their responsibility,” she said.
Police have appealed for information about two eastern European members of staff who were working on the night of the blaze. One is described as a tall, heavily-built, doorman called Victor, aged about 30, and the other a receptionist called Carolina, with black hair and aged about 50.
DI Marriott can be contacted on 020 8733 6564.

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