Judge revokes sauna licence


Scotland Correspondent

The first experiment to decriminalise prostitution in Britain suffered a severe setback in the courts yesterday.

A judge sitting in Edinburgh ruled that the decision by the city council to grant entertainment licences to "saunas" and "massage parlours", which councillors knew were brothels, was illegal. Members of the council's licensing committee had ignored evidence of prostitution, the court found. The ruling is a serious blow to the local authority's plans to reduce street prostitution. It will be studied by other councils, in particular Birmingham and Bristol, which are considering relaxing restrictions on the sex industry.

Last year, Edinburgh councillors began to license saunas in the city's Leith area in an effort to cut street crime and improve public health. Dickie Alexander, the convener of the licensing committee, said: "We know what people get up to in saunas but we go ahead and license them because we know that if we do not, the trade will go back on to the streets which poses even greater dangers."

But one woman living near the site of a proposed sauna challenged the policy. Debra Scanlan, 29, who lives next to the Gemini sauna in Leith, appealed to the Sheriff Court to overturn the licensing committee's decision to grant a licence to Gemini's owner, Ian Haig.

Andrew Hajducki QC, counsel for Mrs Scanlan, told the court that Mr Haig's submissions to the licensing committee included numerous references to combating kerb-crawling, protecting the public and reducing disease. It was clear, he argued, that the premises would not simply be a "centre for reflexology, massage and aromatherapy" but it would offer sex.

For Mr Haig, John Baird, said the committee had fulfilled its statutory responsibilities to examine the premises and was not a forum for a public debate on prostitution. But Sheriff Nigel Thomson ruled there was a "mass of material" which indicated that Gemini would be a brothel. Councillors were aware that brothels were illegal and had been "wrong in law" to grant the licence. He revoked it, remitting it to the committee.

Mrs Scanlan welcomed the ruling. Her solicitor, Robert Hayhow, said the council would now have "look very closely" at how it handled future licence applications. Councillors have approved some 20 saunas so far. All are now under threat.

Edinburgh District Council said it would appeal against the judgment. Lesley Hinds, the council leader, said the decision would not affect future applications from sauna owners.


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage

nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester is seeki...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Administrator - London - £26,000

£26000 per annum + 25 days holiday & further benefits: Ashdown Group: Telecomm...

Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking a confident...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London