First sex worker convicted in new drive

A SEX worker who became the first to be arrested after police lifted their amnesty on Ipswich prostitutes today claimed to have been left out in the cold by support workers.

A SEX worker who became the first to be arrested after police lifted their amnesty on Ipswich prostitutes today claimed to have been left out in the cold by support workers.

Louise Heath was fined by magistrates at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court after she admitted an offence of soliciting in a public place.

The 29-year-old, of Samuel Court, Ipswich, was arrested on February 28 after officers patrolling the area around Handford Road in Ipswich saw her approach a car to offer the male driver sex in return for money.

Her arrest marked a hardening in Suffolk police's tactics against what it calls a “hard-core” of prostitutes who have refused offers of help under Ipswich's Street Prostitution Strategy, which was introduced after serial killer Steve Wright murdered five sex workers in the town.

Suffolk police said they had turned to arresting the women as a “last resort” and Ipswich Borough Council, one of the agencies involved in implementing the strategy, said offers of help would continue.

A council spokesman said: “We endeavour to help all the girls who are caught up in the destructive cycle of street prostitution.

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“We will continue to extend the offer of help to everyone in this trade as long as it takes.”

But as it emerged Miss Heath had been issued a notice of eviction by the council today, she claimed that she was desperate for help to overcome her drug addiction and stop working the streets.

She said: “If they're not giving me the help I need I'm going to go out and do what I do to survive.

“I want help and support with my drugs situation. If they phoned me up and said 'come and see us, we'll do this, this and this' then I'll do it.”

She said she is now working “two, maybe three times a week” compared to every night at the time of the 2006 murders and was trying to get control of her drug problem.

“I used yesterday but before that I didn't use for three days. I haven't been using all that much lately,” she said.

“A lot of the girls have agreed and said 'yes, we will engage with you' but there are other girls like me who the police and the liaison officers don't want to help.

“They can't just say this worked for them so it's got to work for you. We wouldn't be out there if there was proper help for us.

“The way things are going I will probably end up going out of town to do work but that's probably going to put me at more risk.”

The council spokesman said Miss Heath had been issued the eviction notice over “issues surrounding her tenancy agreement”.

What do you think should be done to help women break free from the grip of prostitution and drug abuse? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

LOUISE Heath became the first sex worker to fall foul of Suffolk police's new get-tough approach to women who persistently flout the law when she was spotted by undercover police.

South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court was told on Friday that Miss Heath was spotted by police in an unmarked car about 9pm on February 28 in Handford Road.

Emma Lister, prosecuting, said at 10.15pm the officers saw a silver Peugeot car enter the area and Miss Heath, of Samuel Court, Ipswich, was seen to approach it in Handford Cut.

“She saw the unmarked police car approaching and walked off,” she said.

Miss Heath, who has 29 convictions for 49 offences, including six for soliciting, later admitted in interview that her intention was to see if the male driver wanted to pay her for sex.

She pleaded guilty to the charge of soliciting and told magistrates: “I know that I've done wrong by going out soliciting and I am trying to sort myself out but it doesn't happen overnight.”

She was fined £50, ordered to pay a £15 surcharge as well as £50 toward prosecution costs.

The Somebody's Daughter Memorial Fund was launched in conjunction with Ipswich Borough Council in the wake of the murder of five women in Suffolk.

The bodies of Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell were found in remote rural locations last December.

All had worked in the sex trade and all had drug habits.

The appeal's ultimate goal is to raise enough money to open a safe house where those embroiled in prostitution and drugs can seek support and guidance.

Donations to the memorial fund can be made online at www.eveningstar.co.uk, in person at Ipswich Borough Council's customer service centre in the Town Hall, by calling 01473 433777, or by sending a cheque, made payable to Somebody's Daughter Memorial Fund, to PO Box 772, Ipswich Borough Council, Grafton House, 15-17 Russell Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2DE.