Party planner Cynthia Payne has been acquitted of nine charges of controlling prostitutes at her home in south west London.
The courtroom burst into applause after decision of the jury – of eight men and four women – was announced after just over five hours of deliberation.
Mrs Payne, 53, said: “This is a victory for common sense. But I have to admit all this has put me off having parties for a bit.”
Mrs Payne first hit the headlines in 1978 when police raided her home to find a sex party in full swing, attended by middle-aged and elderly men exchanging luncheon vouchers for sexual entertainment.
After a trial in 1980 she was sentenced to 18 months which was then reduced to six months and a fine on appeal.
This time she ended up in court after holding an “end of film” party following the production of the movie Personal Services, starring Julie Walters.
Author of a book about Mrs Payne’s life, Paul Bailey, described her as “a chirpy little Cockney woman going round telling people to behave themselves.”
After the 13-day trial she sent Judge Brian Pryor QC a copy of the book, An English Madam, with the inscription: “I hope this book will broaden your rather sheltered life”.
During proceedings at the Inner London Crown Court Judge Pryor told the court: “You must be sure that the particular woman was acting as a prostitute and that that particular girl’s movements were influenced one way or another by Mrs Payne.”
He ordered defence costs – in a trial costing £117,000 – to be paid from central funds and Mrs Payne’ s £5,000 legal aid costs to be reimbursed.
The prosecution said Mrs Payne provided facilities for prostitutes in her home in Ambleside Avenue, Streatham including, food, drink, condoms and bedrooms.
Mrs Payne emerged from the court beaming with smiles as she was mobbed by a crowd of 100 media and well-wishers.
Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens said: “It seems astounding that all this public money should be poured into bringing these charges.”
Police said they would not be reviewing their policy over the prosecution of brothel madams.
Cynthia Payne is due to face further charges of brothel keeping at magistrates’ court.
Courtesy BBC News
After the trial Cynthia Payne wrote a book called ‘Entertaining at Home’, with useful tips for hosting parties and dealing with the police.
That same year her life was dramatised in two British films – Personal Services and Wish You Were Here.
Determined to change the UK’s sex laws, Mrs Payne stood as a candidate for parliament in the 1988 Kensington by-election.
She completed a sell-out three week season at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1992.
Since then she has worked successfully as an after-dinner speaker and won the ‘Ideal Dinner Guest Award’ on the BBC’s Good Food Show.