Dr Wendel Rosevear challenges whether anyone benefits from the recent police entrapment of masseurs. Alistair Sutton reports.
Entrapment by the police remains a reality. Is it justifiable? A tool employed to counteract crime? What are the wider social implications? How is this issue relevant in the context of health? Dr Wendell Rosevear believes that in terms of the massage industry, entrapment is counterproductive for individual health and well being.
“At a deeper level I believe that the role massage workers play is vital, as much as safe sex,” Rosevear says. “I know that many people of all ages, and relationship statuses access massage and sometimes sex of varying degrees. Clients looking for the latter service may be in relationships, married, old, shy, isolated, overweight or lonely. Others may not be in sexually fulfilling relationships and some have a disability which may preclude sexual fulfilment elsewhere.”
Rosevear argues that when society or the moral majority seeks to deny the reality of people’s lives we push massage workers, who offer extra benefits or a ‘happy ending’, underground. This places the operator at risk as they cannot have drivers, security or receptionists, and is reminiscent of the situation uncovered in the Fitzgerald Enquiry over 20 years ago.
This is what happens now. The police ring up asking for a massage by two people with a happy ending and are quite insistent in persuading the operator for the service. The undercover police officer arrives for the massage and pressures the masseur to get the second person. If the operator relents and calls a friend or relative to help provide the requested service, they are arrested.”
Under Queensland law sex workers must work alone unless they are registered in a brothel. Hence the police entice the massage worker to break the law where they weren’t previously.
“Ignorance leads to the possibility of corruption and unsafe sex,” warns Rosevear. “Having a law that says sex workers can only work alone unless they are affiliated to a brothel does put them at risk; they provide a service to a broader section of the community than most people acknowledge. Our sex worker laws in Queensland are not based on reality or on fostering safety but rather on prejudice and moralizing. If we want to avoid sexually transmitted infections, rape and violence we don’t need to force sex workers into risk or secrecy.”
Police also use entrapment online, pretending to be underage to entrap internet users into arranging meetings, discussions and offers of sex with supposedly underage people. They also assume the identity of an underage person who has lied about their age, saying they are over 16, to ask leading questions about sex and how far people will go if they meet, only to use that evidence later to charge the internet user with grooming a young person.
Internet users need to be very careful that they don’t get trapped,” says Rosevear. Some young people send naked and erotic photos to internet friends and the receiver can be charged with having or soliciting child pornography.”
Police entrapment in beat sex and drug purchasing is still prevalent. Does the end truly justify the means? In the Logan City sting a few years back in parks such as Karawatha, many men were arrested for indecent exposure and being a public nuisance. Many were married. They were approached by good looking younger men and engaged in conversation, before being led off into the bushes and invited to unzip. As soon as they did so the officer flashed his badge. It is easy to imagine the potential trauma and damage to individuals.
“I ask, which is the immoral act - the offering of an honest service or the telling of lies?” says Rosevear. “Do we really want police renting hotel rooms to entrap sex workers who prior to the request for a “double massage” weren’t offering the service and weren’t breaking the law? Do we want the police wasting resources on masquerading as beat users? I don’t think we need more people in jail or police recruiting for jail. Many of these cases don’t get to trial as the individuals plead guilty to minimize the punishment. I understand the reality that the law is the law, but I want the law to be our servant, not our master and to have a society that is more honest, more accepting of reality and more accepting of the value of people and choice.”
Queensland Pride contacted Queensland Police for a comment and asked if Queensland Police condone the use of entrapment to catch beat users and erotic masseurs and what charges that are laid in these circumstances. Queensland Police returned with the response below.
“While the Queensland Police Service cannot comment on specific issues relating to on-going operational matters, the Service is aware of incidents relating to alleged inappropriate activities at toilet facilities across Queensland . . . It is appropriate that police respond to such complaints and may ask questions of those in the vicinity and will enforce the law, regardless of the age, gender or sexuality of those involved.”
Readers are invited to share their own stories and thoughts on the subject.