BBC News ran a story on 13 June 2013 about a man who had contacted police in Solihull regarding a complaint he wished to make. Nothing strange there.
The man had contacted a prostitute to arrange for sexual services. Upon meeting her, he felt that she had misrepresented her appearance. He contacted the police as he wished to ‘report her’ for a breach of the Sale of Goods Act.
In the telephone call in which the man makes his complaint to the police, he reportedly says:
“I’ve arranged a meeting with her, but beforehand I’ve asked her for an honest description, otherwise when I get there I’m not going to use her services.
“Basically she has misdescribed herself, misrepresented herself totally.
“She was angry because she obviously thinks I owe her a living or something.”
Sales of Goods Act 1979
The Sale of Good Act 1979 deals with consumer’s rights in relation to contracts of sale. This primarily deals with the purchase of – you guessed it – goods. The prostitute is clearly offering a service and services are not covered by the Act.
Firstly, the man has got the wrong act.
Secondly, it does not create any criminal offences and therefore,
Thirdly, it is not a police matter.
So what happened?
The Sergeant who dealt with the man reportedly advised the man that the woman hadn’t committed any offences and that in fact, it was his actions – in soliciting for sex – that were criminal. He refused to give his details but the police were able to track him down.
It is understood that he has been sent a letter warning him about wasting police time. This is a colloquial description for the offence of wasteful employment of the police, under the Criminal Law Act 1967 s 5(2). The maximum sentence is 6 months and/or a £2,500 fine. There is also the power to issue an £80 Fixed Penalty Notice.
So had she actually committed any offences?
Well it is possible to argue that she has committed an offence under the Fraud Act 2006. Section 2 reads:
Fraud by false representation
(1) A person is in breach of this section if he—
(a) dishonestly makes a false representation, and
(b) intends, by making the representation—
(i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
(ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
(2) A representation is false if—
(a) it is untrue or misleading, and
(b) the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.
It would therefore be necessary to show that the woman:
a) Made a representation (which it appears she did when the man asked her to describe herself)
b) That representation was false (see subsection (2) – a jury would need to decide whether her representation was in fact untrue or misleading, and that she realised that fact)
c) The false representation was made dishonestly
d) She intended to make a gain for herself (this would be by making money out of the arrangement for sex between the man and woman)
A and D appear unproblematic. C and D would require an examination of the circumstances, what was said, and what the woman looks like.
Would (or should) the same argument be capable of being made (that the woman was guilty of fraud by misrepresentation) if she had promised to show the man ‘a good time’, but the resulting sex was disappointing?
Are there any other offences? Well David Allen Green (@DavidAllenGreen) raised the issue of trading standards, who deal with illegal sales activities and practices. It may well be possible to argue that the woman in this case has committed an offence under trading standards regulations, however the calling of some real work prevents me from looking into this further…perhaps for another day.