Sauna boss insists police can’t shut them down

Picture: Dan Philips
Picture: Dan Philips
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A DEFIANT sauna boss has vowed police will never succeed in closing down the city’s seedy sex industry.

Unabashed Peter Donoghue claims premises whose licences were suspended this week over sex-for-sale allegations will still be operating years from now.

He says premises will stay open while they appeal the council’s shock decision and could even re-brand themselves “sex therapy centres” in order to apply for licences under a new guise should their appeals fail.

He said: “We’re willing to fight this all the way.” The 69-year-old’s defiant comments follow a turbulent period in the history of the Capital’s infamous saunas.

With six premises staring at closure there were fears that cops were poised to raid the remaining establishments.

Senior council sources, however, believe the police are not set to raid the city’s remaining seven saunas, but said councillors still believe they have “been dropped in the mire” by Police Scotland’s apparent sea change in attitude towards the sex-for-sale industry.

Our council insider said: “For all these years the [council’s regulatory] committee has been told to turn a blind eye. Police reports have always said there was nothing happening in these places and the committee has had to accept that, even if they assumed things were happening.

“Now suddenly the police say there is sexual activity going on in these places.”

Police insist there has been no change to the way they “police prostitution”, but nevertheless say they will continue to inspect the saunas and report any evidence of illegal activity, including people living off immoral earnings, which they come across.

The wranglings in the corridors of power mean nothing to Mr Donoghue, who insists the powers-that-be have a fight on their hands. Mr Donoghue, who represented three saunas before the regulatory committee, said he believed the appeals, which will be decided at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, could take up to a year to be heard. He said: “We’ve got 28 days to appeal but after that the appeal process could take a year. I would expect the three saunas to still be running a year from now.

“If they refuse the appeal, we’ll turn them into sex therapists. We’re willing to fight all the way because this is not right.”

He added: “The council cannot allow the other saunas to keep their licences. With the approach the council is now taking, they all need to be closed down because they operate under the same basis. They’re all run the same way. But, you close them down and you’ll have girls working from private flats, human trafficking. It will go underground instead of being properly licensed, regulated and checked. You’ll get the Russian Mafia moving in. Police Scotland has been allowed to override the city fathers and decide how the city is run. They are telling the council that the police are in charge of Edinburgh.”

Mr Donoghue, who first set up at a sauna in the Capital 35 years ago with his brother, said he is not involved with the management or ownership of the saunas, but represented them at Wednesday’s meeting because they “could not afford the lawyers”. He said: “There used to be 26 saunas in Edinburgh and now there’s only 13. It’s a struggling business but we provide an essential service. Most of our clients are widowed, divorced or infirm, and we keep the women safe.”