Page last updated at 19:00 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 20:00 UK

'Happy endings' massage boss cleared of running brothel

Claire Astrid Finch
The trial of Astrid Finch is seen as a test case for prostitutes' safety

A massage parlour boss who offered "happy endings" has been cleared of running a brothel from her bungalow.

Claire Astrid Finch, 49, of Chalton Heights in Chalton, Bedfordshire, was found not guilty at Luton Crown Court of keeping a brothel for prostitution.

She took out adverts in newspapers and on the internet, selling topless massage "with happy endings".

She told the court she wanted to work with other women for the sake of "safety" and "camaraderie".

Ms Finch had denied keeping a brothel from November 2004 to November 2008 and was unanimously cleared by the jury.

On 19 November 2008, she was arrested in a police raid on the bungalow in a quiet cul-de-sac.

This has been 16 months of sheer hell for me but today I have had my own happy ending
Claire Finch

Up to four other middle aged women would work from the property, but Ms Finch told police she did not provide other services but some of her colleagues did.

She would take a fee to pay for use of the premises and newspaper advertising.

The prosecution alleged Ms Finch worked as a prostitute for many years.

Anna Morris, for the defence, said her client had opened up her home because of concern for the safety of herself and others.

Ms Morris highlighted 18 incidents of serious violence against sex workers in Bedfordshire over a four-year period and said that was the "tip of the iceberg".

'Victory for women'

Miss Finch told the jury: "I wanted to work with a second person. It is not only safety, it is camaraderie.

"It wasn't all sex. A lot of clients said they like to come because it was clean and safe."

Outside court the mother of two said: "This is a victory for women who want to do this work from the safety of their houses.

"This has been 16 months of sheer hell for me but today I have had my own happy ending.

"I will now do whatever I can to campaign to have the law changed."

The International Prostitutes Collective said: "This not guilty verdict greatly strengthens the case for prostitution to be decriminalised so that women are able to work more safely together as in New Zealand."

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