nia in the news

Criminal Records Challenge - Win for Women

02 March 2018

Sex trade survivors win crucial victory: Disclosure of soliciting convictions is a “disproportionate interference with private life” and “not in accordance with the law.”

The High Court today handed down judgment in a ground breaking judicial review brought by three women formerly involved in prostitution, challenging the Government’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Regulations. They argued successfully that the disclosure of their convictions for soliciting is disproportionate and a breach of the right to respect for private life.

The women, who had all been groomed into prostitution as teenagers presented evidence of the far-reaching impact of prostitution-specific records on all aspects of their lives. The DBS scheme requires mandatory disclosure of ‘spent’ criminal records when applying for jobs or volunteer activity in prescribed areas, primarily involving contact with the vulnerable. Following previous legal challenges, there is a filtering mechanism but it only applies to single convictions. As the women had shown in evidence, soliciting by its nature almost invariably results in multiple convictions. Their evidence showed that the disclosure of such records was deeply stigmatising, impacted on the ability of women to exit from prostitution and adversely impacted on employment opportunities, volunteering, education and training opportunities.

The Judges provided a strong judgement recognising the disproportionate nature of disclosure and the significant violation of their right to private life. It should result in the women being able to have their DBS records filtered to remove the soliciting offences – though the mechanism for this is not yet clear.

Fiona Broadfoot, one of the claimants, who waived her anonymity in this case and has been fighting this battle for over 20 years said, “Finally, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders – it’s a vindication. I have carried these convictions around – 8 pages of them – all my life and it’s a disgrace. Not one of those men who bought and used and abused me – even the ones who knew fine well I was a child when first put on the streets – has ever had to face the consequences of his actions. It has been a long fight but worth it.”

Harriet Wistrich the Lawyer for the women said, “This is an important judgment – although there were only three claimants in this case, the judgment will benefit all women in these circumstances and has the potential to bring about real change for a sex trade survivors who should never have been criminalised in the first place. Unfortunately, the court were not persuaded by our argument that the practice discriminates against women or is in breach of duties with regard to trafficked women. We will be seeking permission to appeal in relation to those broader points. It is not easy for women with a history of prostitution to come forward and advocate for themselves and others – so much stigma attends them – so the courage and determination of these women is to be applauded.”

Karen Ingala Smith (CEO for nia a women’s charity supporting the women) said, “We feel strongly that these women should never have been convicted in the first place prostitution is symptomatic of women’s continued inequality and discrimination and a form of violence against women. These women were exploited and coerced and yet it is their lives, not those of their buyers and pimps, that were blighted with convictions. They should not have had to take up this fight, but they did and it is to the benefit of all those exploited in prostitution”.

Notes to Eds

Judgment by LJ Holroyde handed down at 9.30 am on 2 March 2018 in case of R (on an application of (1) QSA (2) Fiona Broadfoot (3) ARB v 91) SSHD and (2) SSJ [2018] EWHC 407 (Admin)


Harriet Wistrich: Lawyer Birnberg Peirce and Director of Centre for Women’s Justice 07903 912 641

Heather Harvey (nia charity that supports the women (0207 683 1270 or 07472 145141))

For more information about the Judicial review challenge 17 and 18 January, 2018

Research carried out by nia identifying issues for women with prostitution specific criminal records

Criminal Records Challenge - Win for Women


nia supports ground-breaking legal case to challenge to discriminatory Government policy in relation to the retention and disclosure of criminal convictions arising from soliciting for prostitution offences

26 July 2017

On 27 July the Divisional Court1 will hear an application from the Government to stay a
ground-breaking legal challenge of its policy in relation to the retention and disclosure of
criminal convictions arising from soliciting offences.

The claim, brought by three women and supported in evidence by several others, will argue
for the first time that the Government legislative scheme discriminates against women and
is contrary to the UK’s legal obligations in respect of the trafficking of women.

“I met a pimp aged 15 and two weeks later I was thrown into the violent and abusive world
of prostitution. Rape became an occupational hazard but I was arrested, charged and
criminalised for 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” Fiona Broadfoot, Claimant.

The women bringing the claim were all pimped into prostitution when teenagers. All
suffered serious violence and abuse on the streets and all struggled after years of such
abuse to exit prostitution. The way in which street prostitution has been historically policed
means that these women almost invariably have multiple convictions for soliciting. Now,
many years after their convictions are spent, each time they wish to apply for a job or
volunteer in certain occupational areas, they must disclose these criminal records.

The Government2 is arguing that the case should be stayed until after a hearing in the
Supreme Court in a series of other cases concerning the disclosure of criminal convictions3.
That hearing is not yet fixed and a judgment in those cases is unlikely to be handed down in
less than one year.

Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the Claimants states, “whichever way that case is decided, it
will not examine the inherent sexual discrimination within the legislative scheme, nor its
impact on victims of trafficking, nor the failure of the UK to comply with its international
treaty obligations in respect of the rights of children.”

The case, if heard, will reveal the significant psychological impact of being required to
provide such disclosure and the impediments it creates for such women contributing to the economy, civil society and providing their own often unique insight and support for other
victims of sexual exploitation.

The Claim is supported by the nia project who very recently published their report on this
issue, ‘I’m no Criminal’’

Karen Ingala Smith, Chief Executive of nia states: ‘women in prostitution are often
there because of coercion and abuse. They should not be made criminals because of this
abuse and – if – they reach a stage where they are able to exit prostitution, their prior
involvement should not become a millstone around their necks for the rest of their lives.’

The Claim was issued by Birnberg Peirce Ltd in the Administrative Court in February 2017
and is known as The Queen (on an application of (1) QSA, (2) Fiona Broadfoot and (3) ARB).
It is also supported by the Centre for Women’s Justice

1 The hearing is listed at 10 am Thursday 27 July, 2017Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL COURT 3 (Before LORD JUSTICE SIMON and MR JUSTICE WILLIAM DAVIS)
2 The Defendants represented by the Government Legal Department are the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Justice
3 P, G and W v Secretary of State for Justice and Others [2017] and Application by Lorraine Gallagher for Judicial Review [2016}

For further information and access to spokespersons contact:
Alice Brackenbury, Birnberg Peirce Ltd 0207 911 0166
Or the Nia project 020 7683 1270

Rights of Women Win Appeal Challenging the Gateway Criteria for Legal Aid for Domestic Violence Victims

18 February 2016

We are delighted by the news that Rights of Women have won their appeal challenging the gateway criteria for legal aid for domestic violence victims and we applaud them for bringing this case. It is a bold step in a climate of the lobbying act and the attacks on the independence of the charitable sector as identified by the Barings “independence panel on the voluntary sector”. Smaller specialist women’s organisations are closing from month to month – we are very grateful therefor to organisations like Rights of Women for taking this forward. It is a shame it was necessary, however, since women’s sector organisations had met with officials and repeatedly highlighted all these concerns which are well known to specialist violence against women organisations even as they mooted these changes but it is a sad pattern that those in power seem both to reject criticism and disregard the expertise of the sector.

Rights of Women’s evidence has shown consistently that 40-50% of victims could not meet these criteria and the evidence requested is totally misaligned with the way women experience men’s violence. It is moreover bizarre that the evidence requested by MOJ was incompatible with the evidence required by the Home Office for the same issue.

Whilst we celebrate this victory – it remains the case that whole swathes of law remain out of scope since the legal aid cuts, many of which disproportionately impact on women. For instance there has been an 80% drop in employment tribunals for sex discrimination. Helena Kennedy highlighted in a recent speech at Conwy Hall that legal aid is not merely about law and lawyers – this is about equality of access to justice and is a cornerstone of our democracy.

nia’s Chief Executive, Karen Ingala Smith, said,

“Whilst the Government has an agenda of “Austerity”, wherever you stand on the need for financial restraint – there are always choices to be made. There is no escaping that choices are ideological as much as, or more than, purely financial and any attempt to shrink the state results in further marginalising and disenfranchising some of those most discriminated against. Sadly this is what we are seeing in how these cuts play out for women, all women, but particularly for migrant women and even more so, those with no recourse to public funds.”

Rights of Women win appeal - press statement


Why We Need A Femicide Census

13 February 2015

The launch of the Femicide Census is the culmination of the work of one individual: Karen Ingala Smith, self-described “random woman in a back bedroom in Walthamstow”. At the beginning of 2012, she realised that the news was telling her the same story over and over, although the names and details changed.

Why We Need A Femicide Census


‘We record all the killing of women by men. You see a pattern’

09 February 2015

On Thursday a database will be launched online entitled Femicide Census: Profiles of Women Killed by Men. It is a project designed to force a recognition of the scale and significance of male violence against women and is the culmination of several years of work by Ingala Smith, who began a grim and time-consuming task of counting Britain’s murdered women and putting their names on her own blog back in 2012. There were 126 women killed through male violence that year, 143 in 2013 and 150 in 2014.

We record all the killing of women by men. You see a pattern’


The stabbing of Ann Maguire was not an isolated incident

01 May 2014

The murder of Leeds teacher should Ann Maguire should horrify and upset us, but no more or less than the killings of the other 49 women in the UK this year before her.

The stabbing of Ann Maguire was not an isolated incident


Fatal male violence against women goes beyond domestic violence

28 April 2014

I didn’t plan to start keeping a list of dead women, but in January 2012 seven women were killed in the first three days of the year.

Fatal male Violence Against Women Goes Beyond Domestic Violence


International Women's Day

10 March 2014

This year’s International Women’s Day celebrations were nothing if not diverse. Here are some of the things we learned

How Karen Ingala Smith Is Breaking The Silence

12 March 2014

What’s the single biggest killer of women in the UK? Cancer? Alcohol abuse? Contrary to popular belief, fatal male violence is the real killer, at present claiming a shocking two women’s lives a week in the UK.

Breaking The Silence - Kettle Mag - March 2014


The mounting toll of violence against women

06 March 2014

So far this year, 24 women in Britain have been killed due to suspected male violence. I know this because there’s a Twitter account, Counting Dead Women, that tallies every one, putting a name and a story to a statistic.

Counting Dead Women Evening Standard March 2014


‘Blaming the victims’ campaign from council

24 December 2013

WOMEN’S campaigners have reacted angrily to binge drinking campaign advert which they claim suggests women are to blame if they are sexually assaulted.

Victim Blaming from Local Council - Yorkshire Post - Dec 2013


What counting dead women tells us that Clare's Law cannot

25 November 2013

Drawing connections between the murders of women by men is surprisingly rare. Attempting to accurately calculate women who died because of a sexist culture is even harder.

Counting Dead Women and Clare's Law - New Statesman - Nov 2013


Feminists gather to raise awareness of violence against women

06 December 2013

Feminists gathered in Highbury Fields last week to pay tribute to women who have died at the hands of men. The vigil was organised by campaigners Million Women Rise.

Highbury Fields Islington Gazette


Beaten up, raped, and made to hide drugs, the middle-class girl who was the lowest of the low to a gang

25 November 2013

What happened to me could happen to anybody, it doesn’t matter where she lives or what her family background.” These are the poignant, rueful words of Kate, a white English 24-year-old who got drawn into a gang and is currently being counselled by the Nia Project, a charity based in Hackney that helps girls recover from sexual exploitation in gangs.

Girls and Gangs - Evening Standard - Nov 2013


Counting Dead Women

25 November 2013

On 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women we tweeted the names of all the UK women who had been killed through suspected male violence so far that year.

Counting Dead Women Feminist Times Nov 2013


Closing down social media sites won't stop young people's bullying

14 August 2013

We need to change attitudes not close down social media sites if we want to change young people’s behaviour.

Close down


nia succeeds where the British Foreign Office in Egypt failed

21 November 2011

British woman raped by military police in Egypt advised by British Foreign and Commonwealth to report the rape to …. the military police.

Tanya said “I was in a state of utter shock and terror,” she said. “Already traumatised by being raped at a military checkpoint by a military official, and frightened about reporting it in a country under the control of the military, I was left on my own without any support or any sense that the consulate were sympathetic or willing to help.”

Tanya had this to say about the East London Rape Crisis Service, run by nia

“nia was the only organisation who seemed to get it, otherwise I wouldn’t have found redress and wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now where they have helped me get a lawyer and generally helping me with everything.”

Tanya had tried to get help from several other organisations and said that they “could not help me, but not only could they not help me, they wouldn’t say that they couldn’t help me, so I was just left waiting for ages until they came back to me saying something like ‘why don’t you try the police’, and the police told me to try Interpol. It was really frustrating, and no one seemed to grasp that the system is totally different in Egypt”

“ I think its really important that there is support for people attacked overseas, and at the minimum organisations that can’t deal with it are aware that there are places that can. Thank you for all your help.”

New research on the needs of children affected by domestic violence in London cites nia's Jacana Project as a good practice example

22 November 2011

New research by the NSPCC and Refuge cites nia and DVIP’s Jacana Project – which supported parents which holding perpetrators of domestic violence to account – as a good practice example.

The report also tells that nia runs London’s only refuge for women with problematic substance use.

Read the report here

Read the independent evaluation of the Jacana Project here

Worshipful Company of Curriers get on their bikes for nia

24 September 2012

The Worshipful Company of Curriers selected nia for their Master’s charitable appeal and generated a fantasitic £5,481.22 to support our work with women and girls who have experienced domestic and sexual abuse.

The curriers-on wheels: Richard Stewart, Emily James, Ross James, David Moss, Kalina Wilson and Ian Hester cycled from London to Brighton on 17th June 2012. Here’s Emily’s account of the ride.

Worshipful Company of Curriers select nia as their charity of the year


One Billion Rising: nia joins global rising to demand an end to male violence against women

14 February 2013

We are rising
• Because between April and September 2012 Rape Crisis Centres in England and Wales took 63,808 helpline calls
• Because last year there were 3,081 reported rapes in London alone, with 6,674 other sexual crimes and 49,021 reported domestic violence crimes
• Because between April and September 2012 56,325 women and girls received on-going support from Rape Crisis Centres in England and Wales
• In remembrance of 109 UK women killed in 2012 through suspected male violence against women
• Because cuts threaten our services but demand never decreases
• To stand with our sisters around the world
• To name the problem: patriarchy
• To demand an end to male violence against women and girls