Judicial review of Sheffield strip club licensing laws a step towards equality, says campaign group

Campaigners say a judicial review of the council’s licensing laws of Sheffield’s only strip club is a step in the right direction towards equality.

The case is due to go to the High Court after it got through the preliminary appeals stage.

The group, Not Buying It, has become involved in a legal campaign against Sheffield City Council after it back-tracked on a commitment to limit the number of strip clubs in the city on 23 November 2017.

Sasha Rakoff, from the group, said Not Buying It were challenging Sheffield Council on the grounds that they had failed to consider the impact on equality in all of their policies and licensing decisions.

“How can we ever have a #TimesUp for sexual harassment when men can go and buy women in a strip club or in a piece of porn or prostitution. You can’t have the two things going on,” she said.

The group has campaigned nationwide since it was set up in 2016 against the sex and porn trades and their acceptance by the media.

“They clearly have not considered equality and they haven’t considered the impact on the women in the clubs and in the vicinity of the clubs and the effect on wider society,” added Ms Rakoff.

She added the council had argued without a license the clubs would be driven underground which would be harder to control.

Ms Rakoff said: “You can never drive the sex industry underground, you need punters to go to it, and if punters know where it is so will the authorities.”

On what would happen if the case was successful, Ms Rakoff said: “In Sheffield they’ll have to re-think their policies, they’ve already been taken to court over how they license [Sheffield’s only strip club] Spearmint Rhino because of equality law.”

The legal action was started by a Sheffield resident known as Irene who started a page on CrowdJustice, which has raised over £1,500 of a £10,000 target.

Irene, not her real name, said in the Independent she believed strip clubs made women feel less safe and she believed strip clubs were harmful to men and women.

Sheffield currently has one strip club, Spearmint Rhino, on Brown Street.

Sheffield Council have not responded for comment.

Sonia Twigg

MA Journalism, Sheffield University @sonia_255