Widely reported in the press, including the Mirror and the Daily Mail, author George McCoy’s book ‘A Guide to the Working Ladies of London’ recently received a wealth of free publicity.
The papers ran a story about the book becoming ‘of interest’ to a police prostitution probe. Featuring contact information, working hours, rates, specialisms and in/out call policies, the title lists almost 600 sex workers in and around the capital. According to McCoy – a well-known writer of adult guides – the £10 books have sold over 500 copies via Amazon since being published shortly before Christmas. Indeed, since the story broke in the national press, the book has sold out on the site.
Kit Malthouse, deputy Mayor of London with responsibility for policing, is reported as saying he would ask the Met to investigate the legality of the book as, “It strikes me that reviewing human beings in the same way as a restaurants is repellent. The thing people forget is that the world of organised prostitution is also a world of organised crime, drug dealing and abuse. Anything like this that tries to sanitise it is revolting.”
In reply, George McCoy (63) said he took all reasonable measures to ensure the women reviewed worked of their own free will, and that he had no moral qualms about his work. “I think we have far too many people in this world telling us how to behave,” he explained to the papers. “Obviously we want to give a good example to the youth of the country, but you should be free to do what we want as long as it’s not going to harm anyone else.”
McCoy’s Guides, which rates prostitutes on a five star scale, has, according to the author, been sold to, “gentlemen, including viscounts and knights of the realm”, adding police would be wasting their time if they investigated. “There have been far more blatant cases that have been taken to court and people were found not guilty. I’m not saying it’s legal, but all sorts of things are illegal. It’s a question of whether it’s in the public interest to take me to court.”
A spokesman for the Met Police said they would consider investigating when they received information from Mr Malthouse. Adding, “The Metropolitan Police Service’s human exploitation and organised crime command responds to, and builds up, intelligence pictures in areas of the sex industry where the most harm may be done. Our primary aim is to make London a hostile environment for traffickers and those who exploit people to operate in.”
Under British law it is unlikely that McCoy has committed an offence. One possible prosecution that could be brought against him is of ‘Conspiracy to Corrupt Public Morals or to Outrage Public Decency’, due to the potential suggestion his book is an advert for the working women. A robust defence would then be author George McCoy is simply providing a guide and not working with or being paid by the women featured.
Should the police pass a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, there would still be the question whether a prosecution would be in the public interest. Additionally, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, on Freedom of Speech, is taken seriously by British courts and is protected by law. Put plainly, free expression cannot be suppressed merely because a publication might offend sensibilities. The question ‘Does this publication outrage public decency?’ is one for a jury and the threshold for guilt is typically very high, as seen in the recent Michael Peacock BDSM DVD case.
McCoy’s other guidebooks to adult services have never lead to a prosecution. His British Massage Parlour Guide, British Escort Guide, Guide to Adult Services in London and McCoy’s Guide to Adult Services in East Anglia, the Midlands and Wales are joined by McCoy’s Guide to the Agencies, Corrective Services and Parlours of London, which reviews dominatrixes and the euphemistic sort of masseur.