TWELVE saunas in Edinburgh were yesterday granted public entertainment licences by councillors, despite protesters’ claims they were operating as brothels
• Edinburgh saunas given reprieve to carry on trading
• Opponents say saunas are operating as brothels
A total of 12 out of 15 in the capital had been threatened with closure after one man launched a campaign against them.
Michael Anthony, 59, insisted the saunas were actually brothels, which are illegal, and councillors would be facilitating a crime by allowing them to continue.
The licences usually come up for renewal every three years, but because of Mr Anthony’s objections, councillors yesterday considered 12 at one meeting.
After two had been given public entertainment licences, Mr Anthony left the City Chambers in protest.
He said: “I am observing a crime in progress and I desire to leave.”
He had earlier accused police and councillors of turning a blind eye to criminal activity.
“The council and police have reason to believe they are brothels and therefore operating as criminal enterprises,” he said.
“Previous Edinburgh city councillors and the licensing committee have conducted themselves in a disgraceful way for over 20 years.
“Senior police officers, from the chief constable down to shift inspectors, have neglected their public duty.”
However, police officers at the meeting said they had no grounds to object.
Ten of the licences were granted and two were continued, because of ongoing police investigations, and will be reviewed within six months. Until then they will continue trading.Carol’s Sauna, in Easter Road, is subject to an investigation.
Lauren Fox, who objected to that sauna, told the committee: “Not only is it known for being a brothel, but on the website there are reviews from customers. Women working there are just as vulnerable and at risk of abuse, violence and trafficking as those working on the streets, if not more, as it is behind closed doors.”
Councillors voted unanimously in support of each applicant.
Addressing the first licence application, convener Gavin Barrie said: “The committee is not convinced there is sufficient evidence not to renew the
Scotpep, a campaign group supporting sex workers, welcomed the decision. George Lewis, co-chairman, said: “It’s important for the safety of the people who work in the industry, as well as helping to reduce HIV infection rates.”
Asked if the council had approved the licences not only because of a lack of evidence of brothel-keeping, but to provide the safest possible environment for sex workers, he replied: “It’s pragmatism. I don’t want to get involved in a legal argument, but sometimes the law works in a pragmatic way.”
However, Jenny Kemp, co-ordinator of Zero Tolerance, said: “We are appalled by this decision. Sexual exploitation is a huge problem in Edinburgh and saunas are a key place where that exploitation happens.”