An attempt to shut down a massage parlour where a 16-year-old girl, missing from home, was discovered to have been hired as a sex worker has been thrown out of court.
The teenager was hidden in an office and covered with a blanket when police raided Natalie’s Sauna in Cookson Street last month.
District Judge Roger Lowe sitting at Blackpool Magistrates Court heard how the girl wore lingerie and earned £400 a night working at the parlour which advertises its services as ‘catering for for every fantasy and fetish’.
The premises have been closed on police orders for two weeks.
But Lancashire Police had applied for a longer three month closure under the Sexual Offence Act, stating the premises were used for child prostitution,child sex offences and pornography.
Police prosecutor Luke McGrath explained how officers had been tipped off that the teenager, who had been reported missing, was working in the massage parlour.
But their application was denied by the judge, despite his agreement that Natalie’s had ‘sexually exploited a child prostitute’.
He made clear the police request had not fulfilled the legal criteria for making a closure order as there was no evidence such an incident would happen again.
Parlour owner Joanne Andrews, of Brun Grove, Blackpool was in court to contest the order.
She said the girl had turned up looking for work claiming to be 18-years-old.
The girl was told what the work involved and did one shift before her true age was discovered.
Miss Andrews told the court: “She was hired by one of my staff who took down her details and measurements.”
“She should have provided ID but said she had left it at a relatives house and would provide before her next shift.
“After her first shift I told her I needed that ID and that night she stayed with my son
“I was told by a friend that they had found her on Facebook and there were details on her birthday there
“I let her come in for her next shift and confronted her and told her she was sacked.”
Natalie’s manager Heather Meehan admitted she was the person who had taken on the girl.
She said: “She turned up to use a sunbed
“I told her it was a massage parlour and what we did.
“She then asked for a job and I took some details. I am not a manageress I am just a working girl. It was my fault she did a shift and it won’t happen again.”
Judge Low accepted Miss Andrews had put in place a system to make sure a 16-year-old would never work at her establishment saying she would demand photo ID such as a passport or driving licence.
She said: “I have mortgages to pay and if we are closed the girls will be out of work. We will demand photo ID from now on.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman said the force would not be applying for another closure order.