Saunas had just nine reported crimes in five years

Peter Donoghue. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Peter Donoghue. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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EDINBURGH’S saunas generated only nine crime reports in the five years before police chiefs sought to close many of them down, new figures revealed today.

In six of the cases officers found “no crime” had been committed, or there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a probe.

Edinburgh's saunas have faced an intense police crackdown. Pic: Toby Williams

Edinburgh's saunas have faced an intense police crackdown. Pic: Toby Williams

Just three crime reports were substantiated by police – a noise complaint each year in 2008 and 2009, and the theft of a bag in 2011.

Saunas bosses today said that the figures supported their claims that the businesses were “unfairly” targeted by police.

Police raids on the saunas in June resulted in 12 people being arrested in connection with brothel keeping and living off immoral earnings, while the force urged councillors to close six of them. In October, six establishments were ordered to close following police objections.

Peter Donoghue represents the Paradise, Dundas Street and New Gentle Touch saunas, which were each denied a licence by councillors. He said: “I’m not surprised at these figures. You get more police call-outs to an average Greggs the bakers.

“We never had to call the police out for anything and no customers ever did either. We never had any trouble in all those years. The only time the police were ever in was during the usual inspections. It just shows you that the police were acting unfairly and operating on their own agenda. It’s terrible what happened because it’s destroyed the industry. Customers are reluctant to go to saunas and many women are leaving to put themslves at risk in private flats.”

But it was claimed that the nature of the saunas may mean some crimes went unreported. A former detective said: “Reports would most likely have to come from customers or the women working there and you could appreciate that both may be reluctant to make them.

“At the same time, nine reports is pretty small beer when you consider how many times police end up attending at the average pub in Edinburgh.”

The other crimes on sauna premises reported to police which were not substantiated were an assault in 2008, a wallet theft in 2009, a theft of cash in 2011, and a theft of money, a purse and a SIM card respectively last year.

Police declined to reveal which saunas were the subject of the crime reports, which were released to the Evening News under Freedom of Information laws, as they did not want to “undermine” their relationship with licensees.

The saunas were visited by police a total of 76 times since 2011 for reasons including licensing checks and searches for signs of human trafficking.

Superintendent Matt Richards said: “We are committed to keeping people safe and will thoroughly investigate whenever we receive any reports of criminal activity, or indeed where we have information or intelligence highlighting offences.

“To ensure the safety of the public within Edinburgh’s licensed premises, officers regularly undertake inspections.”