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Report No. 64

4.3. Position at common law.-

In common law, a "brothel" is a place1 where people of opposite sexes are allowed to resort for illicit intercourse, whether the women are common prostitutes or note2; and keeping a bawdy house3is a nuisance at common law (see 3 Co. Inst. 204) as well as a statutory offence (Sexual Offences Act, 1956, section 33). Indeed a statute over two hundred years old stipulates that any two local inhabitants may give notice of it to a constable of the parish who after taking certain steps, is bound to prosecute on pain of forfeiting £ 20 to each of them (Disorderly Houses Act, 1751, section 7). Besides, on conviction, each of them is entitled to receive on demand a reward of £ 10 from the overseers, who, if they fail to pay it, would forfeit double than sum, (Disorderly Houses Act, 1751, section 5).

Moreover, a person licensed to sell liquor who knowingly permits his premises to be a brothel is liable to the forfeiture of his licence as well as to a fine, and the house must be closed.4 So strict is the law on this point that it applies in this context the principle of absolute responsibility. Accordingly the knowledge of a servant in charge is imputed to the master,5 and an absentee co-licensee is liable for the acts of his co-licensee to whom he has delegated responsibility for controlling the business.6

The law is not less technical towards property owners, for a block of flats inhabited by different women 7and used by them for prostitution has been condemned as a brothet though two flats in one building separately let to prostitution, it has been held do not constitute a brothel.8 Generally, it is an offence for any lessor or landlord or his agent to let premises with the knowledge that any part thereof is to be used as a brothel, or to tolerates such user.9 The same applies to a tenant or occupier who knowingly permits any part of his premises to be used as a brothel or for the purposes of habitual prostitution; while a conviction puts the lease or contract of tenancy in jeopardy.10 Finally, notice from a person of credit to a landlord that his house is used as a brothel seems to be sufficient to make him liable, unless he forthwith takes effective steps to stop such user. The definition in our Act is confined to prostitution, but the policy is substantially the same.

1. Note Criminal Law, Vol. 228, Law Times, pp. 136, 137.

2. Winter v. Wvolfe, (1931) 1 KB 549.

3. See also Chapter 3, para. 3.11, supra.

4. Licensing Act, 1953, section 140.

5. Allen v. Whitehead, (1930) 1 KB 211.

6. Linnelt v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner, (1946) 1 All ER 380.

7. Darose v. Wilson, (1907) 96 LT Rep 645.

8. Strath v. Foxon, (1955) 3 All ER 398.

9. Sexual Offences Act, 1956, section 34.

10. Sexual Offences Act, 1956, section 35.

Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act, 1956 Back

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