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Brothel Closure Orders


 The orders were created under schedule 2, of the Policing and Crime Act 2009, which amended the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The applicants in these matters are the Police or the Local Authorities. An order can be made where a specific prostitution offence has been committed on the premises. These are the offences detailed at s.47 to s.53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. At first sight it is surprising that these offences do not include the specific offence of “Keeping a Brothel” under the Sexual Offences Act 1956, but that shows that the act is designed to counter the anti-social behaviour caused by the day to day running of a brothel. Think of it as a “catch-all” mechanism. It is also of note that numerous recent orders have been sought when there have been concerns about human trafficking and/or child prostitution.


For a Brothel Closure Order to be made the applicant must fulfil the following three conditions pursuant to s.136D, of the Sexual Offences Act 2003:

  1. First, the Court must be satisfied that during the relevant period the offence has been used for activities for one or more specific prostitution or pornography offences which are detailed at ss.136(6) & (7) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003;
  2. Second, the Court must be satisfied that the making of the closure order is necessary to prevent the premises being used for activities related to the specified offences;
  3. Third, the Court must be satisfied that before the issue of the closure notice was authorised, reasonable steps were taken to fulfil section 136(7)(b) and that a Constable (in reality a Senior Police Officer) complied with section 136C(3)(d) in relation to the identified persons.
  4. The final condition is the simple procedural test. The key issue here is whether the premises were used for one of the relevant offences in the relevant period, as it is likely that any defence will centre on proving that it was not.


NOTE that the standard civil burden of proof (not as strict as in a Criminal Law matter) applies in all Closure Order cases, and that burden rests on the applicant. At this point the Police/Local authority do not need a full catalogue of evidence such as you would expect, say, in a trial. The Court must also take into account whether making an order is necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances when it is considered that the order will deprive the respondent of their home.


It follows from the last point that premises used as “working” flats cannot expect the same degree of protection from the Court as might be given to a residential property. That is why most Police applications tend to succeed, though they may be appealed or overturned at a later date.