Devon

Plymouth Asbo woman angry at prostitute accusation

A Plymouth woman has said an Anti-social Behaviour Order (Asbo) which led to her being accused of prostitution in court has ruined her life.

Former pole dancer Natalie Gentle, 29, of Manstone Avenue, was accused by neighbours of prostitution in evidence to Plymouth magistrates last week.

She had been given an interim Asbo in 2009, banning men from visiting her flat after 2200.

But on 4 May magistrates rejected the claims she was working as a prostitute.

The city council, asking for the interim order to be made long term, claimed that she may have been funding drug use from prostitution.

The council was acting on behalf of the landlord, Plymouth Community Homes, which had received complaints from a number of neighbours about noise and the number of male visitors at Ms Gentle's flat.

But magistrates said the evidence about prostitution was inconclusive and circumstantial.

Magistrates dropped the ban on men visiting her flat but gave Ms Gentle a two-year Asbo.

'Not innocent'

The new order says she must not be found in a drunken or intoxicated condition, whether due to the consumption of alcohol or controlled drugs, in any public place at any time in Plymouth.

She was also told she must not cause any noise nuisance or disturbance to neighbours by the playing of loud music from any residential premises or by shouting or arguing with anyone.

Ms Gentle told BBC News she had never been a prostitute.

"My whole life has been ruined," she said.

"I was labelled a prostitute in court and accused of terrorising the neighbourhood without me committing any crimes."

She admitted that she was "not perfect" and had used drugs, but that she no longer did.

"I am not innocent," she said.

"But if there was a problem with neighbours it could have been resolved without an Asbo.

"There should be another option. I was labelled a criminal and that's not fair."

'Clear process'

She added: "I was called all the names under the sun. I was a prisoner in my own home."

Plymouth Community Homes said in a statement: "We have a very clear process for investigating anti-social behaviour which includes talking to the alleged offender and neighbours and investigating and monitoring any disturbances.

"Only where someone is still causing disturbance for others would they take things further and their preference is always to find a solution."

The coalition government announced in February that it was considering the creation of new behaviour orders and the abolition of Asbos.

Plans include a Crime Prevention Injunction aimed at stopping anti-social behaviour before it escalates.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The home secretary has been clear, the current tools are overly bureaucratic and don't work effectively.

"We are currently consulting on a new way forward to tackle anti-social behaviour, giving local agencies a toolkit that provides a strong deterrent and is quick, practical and easy to use."

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