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Courtroom tickle

Paris, Sept. 18 (Reuters): A sassy Englishwoman had a Paris courtroom hooting with laughter today as she used some eloquent quips to reject charges she ran a lucrative sex-ring that hired out classy girls to the well-heeled.

Margaret MacDonald, who has two university degrees, lashed out at France’s ban on escort agencies, saying they provide a quality service between consenting adults — a far cry from pavement prostitution. “When I came to Paris I noticed the pavements were packed with east European girls. I am against women working for men, being abused by men. I think this is something we women should do between ourselves,” 43-year-old MacDonald told the court.

“I felt my agency was a more discreet way to get people together. I saw it as providing a service that matches together consenting adults. What two consenting adults decide to do is their business, not mine,” she said in impeccable French. Taking a less serious tone, she said her marketing studies had helped get the business booming.“You use the same skills to sell computers as you do to sell other activities.”

Tolerated in many countries, escort agencies are illegal in France, where the government has also cracked down on prostitution under a wider anti-crime campaign.

MacDonald, who counts Japanese, Greek and Arabic among her six languages, faces six years in prison if found guilty for running an agency with 500 escorts on its books which set up luxury dates in Paris, Milan and Mediterranean resorts. While clients paid anything up to 1,000 euros ($1,129) per hour for an escort, MacDonald said she only made 3,000 euros ($3,386) per month from the business, once she had paid for adverts in the International Herald Tribune and other costs.

In answer to questioning from the public prosecutor, MacDonald said that she had always told her employees that sex could take place on a date, but didn’t have to. “Of course, I know what happens in a hotel room after dinner, whether the girl is paid or not. I myself went out with a man or two and after dinner, inevitably at least one person wants it to go further than the end of the table,” she said, provoking laughter from the courtroom.

Even the judge caused some giggles, when she contested MacDonald’s claim that her clients sought charming and elegant dates for dinner with no pre-supposition that sex would follow. “If a man has requested a date with a large chest, I’m not sure it’s her conversation he’s interested in,” she said.

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