Dave has been working at video shops on Old Compton Street for the past four years. Three years ago he took over as front man. He does not work in the shop himself, but stays on the sidelines, at a pub up the road, 'running it.

'If I'm not around, something usually goes wrong, he said nervously. 'If we get raided, I've got to get more copies done and up to the shop as quickly as possible. Or I might have to cover rent - pounds 500 a day - if we've had

a bad day.

'We're all here to take the rap - the middle man for the middle man. We pay our rent to a messenger who works for Mr T. Technically, he's my boss and it's he who deals directly with the owner of the property.

Dave takes care of any trouble. 'If one of my employees gets raided, it's the front man's responsibility to get him out, pay fines. Fines currently run between pounds 300 and pounds 1,000 depending on the mood of the judge.

One magistrate, allegedly annoyed at petty offences taking up too much court time, threw out a case, suggesting that England should fall in line with the rest of Europe and legalise porn.

'None of the vice squad's said anything to us, said Dave. 'Obviously, there's something going on. Vice used to be a cushy job, they really put their feet up. They only used to raid us during weekdays.

'We knew we didn't have to worry at night or on weekends. One guy's been working nights here for three years, he'd never been raided until last month.

Things have changed since the end of May. Dave's shop has been raided six times in seven weeks.

'We had only one raid last year. At the moment, a raid is just a momentary hiccup in the life of a sex video shop. 'It might take us an hour to set up again with new stock.

But the higher fines and mandatory jail sentences which may soon be on the way could mean the end of Dave the front man.