Despite complaints, council can’t find enough evidence against alleged brothel
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 October 2018
Havering Council has said it cannot find enough evidence to take action against an alleged brothel in Elm Park, despite complaints from neighbours – and the police confirming there is “brothel activity” at the site.
Sinplicity Massage has operated from an industrial estate off Elm Park Avenue since 2011 and has attracted numerous complaints by neighbours to the council and police.
MP for Dagenham and Rainham Jon Cruddas has now also joined residents in calling for action.
The business at the Kings Estate, which advertises online as a massage parlour, claims to offer “amazing massage” with “lovely ladies”.
On its website, it purports to have a “VIP air conditioned room” and staff who “offer most services” 24 hours a day, seven days a week, alongside photo galleries of three scantily-clad girls it claims are based on the site.
A nearby resident, who asked not to be named, said she had seen “drunk men arriving and leaving at all hours, shouting and swearing and urinating in public areas”.
She said: “Men arrive by taxi, often three or four at a time, so they have to wait outside while others take turns.”
Reviews have also been posted by former punters in online forums.
One visitor wrote: “The place was spotless. There was [sic] a few people around but nobody seemed to take any interest.”
The man claimed to have had sex with a woman, described as having “long dark hair and a body to die for”, in a half-hour appointment.
When one of our reporters called Sinplicity, a woman told him prices started at £60 for half an hour but did not detail specific services.
Police confirmed they were aware of “brothel activity” at the site.
“We carry out proactive patrols and investigations in the Elm Park area, as well as working with local partners, to tackle illegal brothel activity,” a spokesman said. “Much of the intelligence we have received on brothel activity has come from the community.
“The site has been visited on several occasions by police and is included in regular proactive patrols and investigations.
“The site was visited on September 21 and a number of occupants were spoken to. We will continue to provide an appropriate response to information received from the community.”
Last week, Mr Cruddas confirmed he was aware of the situation and had contacted Havering Council about it “as an urgent matter that needs to be sorted”.
A spokeswoman for Mr Cruddas added: “Jon supports the residents in Elm Park and will continue to support them with the ongoing issues.”
Last November, Havering Council said after police confirmed they were investigating, that if the site was “found to be a brothel” it would support police in shutting it down. But police said on that occasion there was “no evidence to support any investigation”.
Stephanie Nunn, one of three councillors for the Elm Park ward, said she had received an email of complaint but had not pursued the issue further.
She told the Romford Recorder there was “nothing obvious” to see on the site.
A council spokesman said: “The council has received historic reports of anti-social behaviour at this site, which were investigated in conjunction with our counterparts within the police.
“Despite the council and police meeting local residents and carrying out surveys, they were unable to find evidence to corroborate the concern raised.
“As always we would encourage everyone to report anti-social behaviour to both the council and police so we can work together to take action.”
A mother-of-two in Elm Park Avenue said: “You see people getting dropped off in cabs and looking on their phones for directions.
“Elm Park was a place where we wanted to bring our kids up, and it’s being forgotten.
“It’s getting worse and worse, and it’s unfair, because it’s a good community.”
Another added: “I used to see girls standing at the gates at the bottom. I’ve spoken to local councillors in the past and mentioned it to a policewoman. It did bother me, especially when I had teenage daughters.”
The registered owners of the Kings Estate did not respond to requests for comment.
Information from other online forums suggests that at least two other establishments offering ‘in-call’ services are running in the Romford area, while in 2014 some 18 suspected brothels around Havering were reported to police.
Police also executed a warrant on a brothel in Hacton on September 12, with one person arrested and the premises closed down.
Sinplicity Massage declined to comment when contacted by this newspaper.
Under the law, working as a prostitute in private is not an offence, and nor is working as an ‘outcall’ escort visiting clients. It is also not illegal to sell sex in a brothel.
But it is an offence for a person to keep a brothel, or to manage or act or assist in the management of a brothel.
Currently a brothel is classed as any premises used by more than one man or woman for the purposes of prostitution, whether on the same day or on different days.
The maximum penalty is seven years in prison and minimum of six months.
There have been calls for the full decriminalisation of the sex industry in England and Wales, or a relaxing of the rules to permit smaller brothels, on the grounds that it would make it safer.
In 2016 the Home Affairs Select Committee recommended that soliciting should be decriminalised and that sex workers should be allowed to share premises, while laws allowing the prosecution of those who use brothels to control or exploit sex workers should be retained.