Police deny change in policy over sauna raids

POLICE Scotland have defended a string of recent raids on Edinburgh’s saunas, with a high-ranking officer saying there had been no change in policy surrounding the city’s licensed sex industry.

Around 150 officers descended on seven saunas and 11 related premises. Picture: Julie Bull

Assets worth £500,000 were seized and three suspects were arrested for drugs offences in a major blitz earlier this month in which about 150 officers descended on seven saunas and 11 related premises.

London Street Sauna was among locations again targeted last week. Officers questioned workers at the premises for almost two hours in a separate raid on Wednesday.

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Police claimed they had found evidence of human 
trafficking, but politicians including independent MSP Margo MacDonald branded the crackdown as a disappointing attempt by the newly formed Scottish police force to “turn the clock back to a time before Edinburgh led the thinking on how to manage prostitution”.

Critics have previously accused the former Lothian and Borders force of turning a blind eye to Edinburgh’s licensed sex trade.

But Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham today hit back at those accusations, arguing that local forces would not and had never ignored criminality.

He said: “There has been no policy change from Police Scotland. Neither has there been a new approach dictated or directed from one part of the country or the other.

“The police service is there to keep people safe. We do that by targeting criminal activity, those who orchestrate it, and by protecting those who are at risk of harm, the most vulnerable, and supporting victims. Put simply, we would be failing the public if we adopted the ‘turned a blind eye’ approach.”

He said police had been targeting criminal activity during last week’s operation centring on prostitution in licensed saunas. He said saunas were often not safe havens, adding: “Months in the planning, our activity uncovered at least two women who reported having been trafficked, serious sexual crime, drugs offences and criminal proceeds seized.”