Wednesday 12 March 2014

Illegal leverage

Legalising prostitution wasn't enough to get the gangs out of prostitution in New Zealand. Joelle Dally's coverage of the Mellory Manning murder trial shows why:
Chilling insights into the Manchester St scene emerged during a just-concluded High Court murder trial, after which Mauha Huatahi Fawcett was found guilty of Manning's December 2008 killing.
At the time, the Mongrel Mob was vying for control of Manchester St.
The gang had set up territory at the Oxford St bridge on Manchester St, which they called "The Four Aves", where they minded their own girls.
But they also used standover tactics to "tax" working girls for $20 a job.
Fawcett, a Mongrel Mob prospect, was apparently told by senior gang members they "owned the streets".
Street workers who tout for business on Manchester St today recall the Mob presence being "full-on" right up to the February 2011 earthquake.
One, who had been working on the street for about 30 years, said when Manning was killed, "I just knew those mobsters were behind it".
"They've pulled away at the moment, the Mongrel Mob. I haven't seen them since I've been back out since after the earthquake. They used to be really intimidating," she said.
"Those boys will still creep back around here - push their drugs on to [girls], them buying their drugs. Then before you know it, you're ticked up so much, you're in debt."
All of this is well after prostitution was legalised. While legalisation means that sex workers can go to the police if they're being victimised, it does not solve the problem entirely where some sex workers are in the industry and choose street work over brothels (or aren't able to get employment in brothels) because of substance abuse issues. In general, post-legalisation outcomes have been good. But legalisation of prostitution by itself hasn't been panacea.

I doubt the Mongrel Mob could have had as much power over the Manchester Street workers if those workers were able to get drugs instead in legal and regulated markets.

I'd really like to know whether the Mongrel Mob's "standover" taxes were restricted to those girls beholden to them through debt, or whether they maintained broader intimidation despite legalisation. I can understand why addicts indebted to the Mongrel Mob might be reluctant to go to the police. I'm not sure what would have stopped workers not so beholden from going to the police. Were the police not credibly able to offer protection for those workers dobbing in Mongrel Mob members?


  1. Short of having officers posted to protective duty 24/7 I'd be surprised if they could ever offer someone effective protection against Mob (or other gang) members.

  2. I'd thought restraining orders could work, but likely not. Get a restraining order against one, another shows up instead and is worse...