No evidence of sex trafficking as Kingston massage shop has license renewed

By Cesar Medina

10th Jun 2024 | Local News

Oriental Style Massage and Beauty in Richmond Road, Kingston will have its license renewed (credit: Google Maps).
Oriental Style Massage and Beauty in Richmond Road, Kingston will have its license renewed (credit: Google Maps).

The Richmond Council Licensing Sub-Committee decide to renew Oriental Style Massage and Beauty after concerns over poor record keeping, but owners aim 'to make improvements.'

In its decision, the sub-committee explain that the business has been operating in Richmond Road, Kingston for 10 years without a single complaint until recently and that it should have the opportunity to install its new electronic records system to improve client/therapist record keeping in the shop.

A complaint from a resident to a ward councillor led Richmond Council Licensing Officer, John McGann, visiting the shop last year and coming to the assumption that the massage shop could be operating as a brothel.

However, Council Licensing Officer, Ms Sumeet Anand began the meeting by explaining to councillors that only breach of conditions were being considered and not the allegations of sexual services against the business.

Allegations of sex trafficking

Representing the directors of Oriental Style Massage and Beauty, Ms Jinlan Long and Ms. Yujun Qin, were Business Advisor, Richard East and husband of Long, Ian Hendren.

East told cllrs during the meeting on Thursday, 30 May: 'If the licence isn't agreed, then we are in very serious situation because there is potentially a substantial loss of income and financial difficulty for the people that I am here today representing.

"We feel that the meetings and air we got from the inspectors (licensing officers) that turned up was that there was already miss-practice because of the report. There has never been any evidence, we've never been presented with any evidence of this practice (sex services).

Denying the claims of the business operating as a brothel and trafficking women, East goes on to tell cllrs that he understands Oriental Style Massage and Beauty has not been keeping track of client and therapist records correctly.

Immigration services raiding Oriental Style Massage and Beauty

East then explains his frustration about how the licensing team decided to proceed after the first visit to the massage parlour (12 October 2023), where the business was raided by immigration officers.

"The next issue that happened after the first visit in the first warning, that we were raided by the immigration services and quite honestly, to be raided by six immigration officers in a shop - in a shop that is probably a third a size of this room, has no back door and has two and has two people in it - is in my mind a waste of resources and ridiculous," East says.

East adds: "And again when we ask if there is any evidence prior to that taking place, i.e has anyone observed the shop to see if there is any 'too-ing' and 'fro-ing' or whatever. Does anyone anybody come in and ask the question if there's any sex trafficking? No there wasn't.

"We were just simply raided and the outcome of that was clean bill of health."

Representives of the massage shop, Ian Hendren (left) and Richard East (credit: Richmond Council).

Oriental Style Massage and Beauty's failure to track client/therapist records correctly

In regards to the massage parlour's failure to track client and therapists records properly in accordance to the conditions of the shop's license, East states that the shop would have been able to provide them had council officers scheduled a meeting

East says: "We have this kind of view that they're records and yet we still have these surprise meetings.

"These unannounced what we call boom meetings when they turn up and say 'right come in the shop, we will check this, check that' - it's records, records are not going to jump out of the window.

"Why can't we have a scheduled meeting?

"I've been in business for 50 years I'm retired now. I don't think I've ever had a meeting where people just turn up and say 'I want to see you now.'"

He continues: "Our records have not been as good as we would like them to be. We've gone from a paper-based record system A4 sheets with writing on them, it wasn't particularly good.

"We then built in the industry standard treatment cards and we then transferred all the paper records into these cards with more information from clients as time goes on."

East tells cllrs that the business is working on implementing a cloud based software called Vagaro to log client and therapist records. If a customer refuses to provide personal details then they will be refused from Oriental Style Massage and Beauty

Directors of Oriental Style Massage and Beauty Yujun Qin (left) and Jinlan Long (credit: Richmond Council).

Continuing to criticise the licensing officers' approach to handling the complaint against the shop, East calls the claims 'trumped up views rather than facts and evidence', as it has never had any complaints before the most recent one after 10 years, citing the shop's 'loyal' client base.

Liberal Democrat Cllr, Rob O'Carroll, quizzes East and tells him that officers are allowed to have unannounced visits and that why over the last 10 years, has the shop been unable to implement the correct record tracking system - referencing an incident in another massage parlour where a client died on a table and their next of kin was unable to be contacted due to the business' lack of client records.

East responds: "In the last 10 years we've submitted all of our details to the license team, we've never been asked any questions, we've never had any meetings that have driven this particular detail (client records) to the front of our minds.

"We have kept records. They've been on A4 pieces of paper, they've moved now to proper licensing cards and we do recognise the importance of this issue and I think it's being brought more and more to the focus following what's happened in the last few months.

"It's taken us a time, we've made clear to the team where we are and what we are doing. We recognise the risk that somebody could be seriously injured or ill. We do have full insurance to cover that, should I say, the worst to happen and we are making every effort to gather all the information."

Richmond Council Licensing Officer John McGann (credit: Richmond Council).

In his closing remarks, Licensing Officer McGann tells the hearing that from his first visit to the Oriental Oriental Style Massage and Beauty on 12 October 2023 he tried to 'work with the premises' to ensure they were upholding license conditions.

He says: "We tried to work with the premises, we issue a warning letter, we highlight the breaches and then we do a follow up, so it was disappointing then that just over a month later and a second visit (18 November 2023), the same breaches were being done.

"And then when the renewal application came in and I did a visit with my colleagues mate and we found the exact same breaches again and then we had these good people (Oriental Style Massage and Beauty) in for a meeting at the Civic Centre and we were just met with a wall of refusal to accept that they were breaching these conditions."

McGann then goes onto explain that the massage shop is using clients refusing to give their details, GDPR, council officers and immigration officers as 'an excuse', where he and the licensing team were 'just doing their job'.

The licensing officer tells cllrs: "As a licensing authority we need to have 100% trust in all premises that come under our regime. With our recent past experience with Oriental Massage, I'm not sure I've got any trust back and them being able to comply with the standard conditions."

Ian Hendren, husband of the shop's director Ms Jinlan Long, tells cllrs in his closing remarks that despite what McGann might believe, that they have been 'working hard' to ensure high standards.

The husband says: "I feel like we've bent over backwards to meet everything we've been asked to do...we've tried really hard to add and add and add layers and layers of health and safety and what we've been asked to do and I've worked really hard on that, and I appreciate John doesn't see it from his point of view, but from my point of view I feel like I have worked really hard to support my wife (Long)."

He adds: "The other thing I wanted to say, John asked why we have the notices (refusing request for sexual services) in the shop and my wife has always told me that the secret of a good business is to have reliable, repeat customers and over 10 years she's worked really hard to get that, but in the early days I had to listen to phone calls from men asking for things I shouldn't.

Ian Hendren during his closing remarks (credit: Richmond Council).

Appearing emotional, Hendren continues: "She's worked really hard to weed out those people and get good customers. I think there is this perception of Asian women that somehow they are sort of play things and there up for it and I've been walking with her (JinLan Long) in the street and then gone a few steps behind and she's been approached by men saying 'hey, you look gorgeous' and trying to chat her up and I've had to walk next to her and pull her away."

Director Yujun Qin, who has lived in the UK for 22 years, told also cllrs that the buisness has been 'trying its best' amidst a difficult economic back drop.

In response to where the initial complaint came from, Licensing Officer Sumeet Anand explains that because of GDPR the council under no circumstances can share that information.

She also says that the intensity of raids by immigration officers is not up to the licensing team to decide.

To find out more about the Richmond Licensing Sub-Committee meeting from Thursday, 30 May, click here

     

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