After spending more than a year pursuing the tiny, unfunded pressure group, Not Buying It, through the courts, Spearmint Rhino has ‘rescinded’ its claim and paid substantive costs to Not Buying It’s pro bono legal team.
Spearmint Rhino had taken legal action against Not Buying It for exposing the sexual contact rife at its strip clubs. But it has now been forced to discontinue its claim, pay costs, release the pressure group from all undertakings previously made and cannot bring any further claims against the NGO on this issue. And, with no confidentiality incurred, this is all in the public domain.
This is being heralded as a stunning victory for Not Buying It in a ‘David and Goliath’ of a legal case.
The chain clearly started to realise months ago that it made a big mistake and had been approaching Not Buying It with increasingly attractive settlements – from demanding the NGO pay it £40,000 to instead offering to pay Not Buying It nearly £50,000 in legal costs.
“We are hugely grateful to our incredible legal team for working pro bono on this” says Not Buying It CEO, Dr Sasha Rakoff.
Not Buying It was on the brink of going to to court to get the case thrown out until an Experian Credit Report rated Spearmint Rhino UK (£3million in debt) as ‘high risk’ and liable to solvency. It then decided to accept the sex industry giant’s latest offer before running up any more legal costs where there was a chance of not being paid at all.
The legal challenge by the club was ‘fronted’ by 9 of its lap dancers (half of whom the strip chain had fired) with most prior media coverage not mentioning Rhino’s involvement at all.
“It’s absolutely typical that the strip industry has hidden behind – and used – its lap dancers for its own ends. These women’s names are now out in the public as they never legally had any chance of being given anonymity when they got involved in these proceedings. The one thing they never wanted” says Dr Rakoff.
The other thing the lap dancers never wanted was for the video evidence, that Not Buying It had to gather as proof of breaches, being made public. But Spearmint Rhino has now written off a legal undertaking made by the pressure group not to publicise it.
“We were never going to, and never will, make this evidence public in any shape or form and have always made that crystal clear – which is why this entire case was always totally unnecessary. But the fact that Spearmint Rhino has now basically told us we can ‘do what we like with it’ shows the real motivation for this case. It was never about ‘protecting its lap dancers’ it was about threatening anyone who dares whistle blow on the strip trade.”
It also shows the huge conflict of interests at play.
“This is a strip chain that has gone to court to stop lap dancers having any employment rights. It fired half the dancers it then used to take this case against us. It has a documented 20 year history of exploitation (including prostitution, harassment and assault of its lap dancers). Yet we are supposed to now believe that it cares so much about them that it took this legal action (potentially at a cost of close to £1/4 million if this had gone all the way to trial and they had lost) ‘on their behalf’? No. There was only ever one interest being served here and that was Spearmint Rhino’s” says Dr Rakoff.
Not Buying It feels it is clear that the real purpose of this legal action was to intimidate anyone from speaking out against the strip industry. The fact that the club didn’t just come after Not Buying It but included its unpaid CEO – threatening her personally with potentially £100,000s in legal costs – speaks for itself.
“If it’s doing this to me, what do you think the industry does to its lap dancers to make sure they back down and shut up? We already work closely with survivors of the strip trade. We would be more than happy to work with women still in the industry to hold the industry, and the councils who license it, to account”.
1. See the Discontinuance Order here
[redacted to protect names]
2. Prior stages in the legal proceedings, where a judge ruled against Spearmint Rhino and highlighted a litany of failure by its legal team here
3. Please do not make public the names of the lap dancers involved