Senior police officer calls for review of law on prostitution

Press Release

Senior police officer calls for review of law on prostitution
The International Union of Sex Workers
Tuesday 28th December 2010 Immediate Release

Contact: Catherine Stephens on 07772 638748 or Amy on 07510 575903

The IUSW welcomes the statements by ACPO’s lead on prostitution and sexual exploitation, Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne, that it is time to look again at the laws around prostitution.

Law surrounding the sex industry are complex, confusing and ineffective in targeting harm. In fact, it makes sex workers’ lives more dangerous. There are already general laws to target violence, coercion and abuse, which sex workers are prevented from accessing through fear of the police, as there is an inherent contradiction between the police roles of protection and prosecution.

3,000-22,000 of the estimated 80,000 people who sell sex in the UK do so on street and are criminalised under the Street Offences Act of 1959 if they loiter or solicit; the Sexual Offences Act 1985 penalises kerb-crawling. The Policing & Crime Act 2009 tweaked existing legislation: the requirement for persistent behaviour by kerb-crawlers was removed and a definition of “persistence” for soliciting or loitering was given: twice in three months. That gives this profoundly vulnerable group of women the opportunity to have contact with the police four times a year without fear of arrest.

Over the past 50 years, this legislation has entirely failed to solve the problems associated with street prostitution. The most “successful” outcomes, resulting from expensive long term enforcement, are displacement (for example, street sex workers moved to Norwich as a result of increased police action in Ipswich).

Indoors, it is possible to work entirely legally, but the only way to be free of the risk of prosecution is to work for yourself in complete isolation. Two people working together fulfils the legal definition of a brothel, so the law builds in isolation at the most fundamental level; the owner or tenant is liable to up to 7 years imprisonment.

“Controlling for gain” – legislation on “pimping” – explicitly includes people who are working of their own free will and covers almost every way of working with or for a third party.

Prosecution requires no evidence of coercion, violence or abuse; there have been several recent successful prosecutions where it was accepted in court that the defendant offered a safe, fair and honest working environment to women who freely chose to be there.

Likewise, our legal definition of trafficking fails to meet the standard of either the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking (commonly called the Palermo Protocol) or the Council of Europe Convention on Trafficking. It refers to knowledge and intent, not coercion, deception or abuse.

Catherine Stephens, activist with the International Union of Sex Workers says, “The law doesn’t just fail to target violence and exploitation, it actually facilitates it. Would we be safer working together? Yes. Is that legal? No.”

A community’s worth is measured by the way it treats the most vulnerable. It is time to treat people who sell sex with respect and to prioritise our rights and safety. It is time to decriminalise sex work so people who sell sex have the full protection of the law.

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Inquiry into sex trafficking in Scotland wants to hear from men who use prostitutes

Jun 30 2010 By Annie Brown

AN inquiry into sex trafficking in Scotland is asking punters who use prostitutes to talk to them – in secret.

Baroness Helena Kennedy, who is heading the probe, said men who buy sex can help build a realistic picture of the extent of the trade.

Kennedy said: “I want to hear from these men. I need to hear directly from people who have experiences of trafficking.

“I think if you want to have a proper sense of the problem, it is better to hear from witnesses themselves directly.

“It might be they are men who have used prostitutes and they have had an experience where they have been with a woman who was clearly coerced into prostitution.

“We need help to understand the scope of the problem but those who can do that are often the very people who, through shame or fear, don’t want to step forward. Continue reading

UK: Police boost funds from assets taken in raids on prostitutes

The English Collective of Prostitutes says a ‘moral crusade’ is under way based on the mistaken belief that sex workers are all controlled by criminal gangs

Jamie Doward
The Observer, Sunday 25 April 2010

An increasing number of prostitutes who work from home, often for safety reasons, are being prosecuted, according to the organisation that represents English sex workers.

The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) says the women face up to seven years in prison if found guilty under brothel-keeping charges. It blames the trend on politicians leading a misplaced “moral crusade” against prostitution that it says is driving the industry further underground.

The collective says the case of Claire Finch, who will appear at Luton crown court tomorrow to deny charges of brothel-keeping, is a typical example of how changes in attitudes to prostitution have resulted in more Continue reading

UK: Court rejects undercover sex case in Nottingham

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A man should not have been prosecuted for asking a woman for sex in a Nottingham red light district, a High Court judge has ruled.

The man was arrested for a public nuisance offence by an undercover police officer, in Mapperley Road.

The case, from July 2008, had been thrown out by magistrates previously, but prosecutors tried to reopen it.

At the High Court earlier, Lord Justice Elias criticised prosecutors for trying to criminalise lawful conduct.

‘Quite hopeless’

The police sting operation took place after complaints from Mapperley residents about the impact of prostitution in the area.

A police officer posed as “Sarah”, a prostitute, and agreed a price for sex with the man after he approached her.
Magistrates cleared him of any offence, ruling he had done nothing wrong.

But the Director of Public Prosecutions tried to re-open the case in the High Court.

However, Lord Justice Elias said the attempt was “quite hopeless” and upheld the ruling a single incident of asking a woman for sex in a known red light district could not amount to a nuisance.

He added “a single, otherwise lawful, act” does not become a criminal offence just because other people are carrying out “similar, otherwise lawful, activity” in the same area.

Observing prosecuting authorities were using “wholly artificial” concepts to criminalise lawful conduct which they considered to be “reprehensible”, Lord Justice Elias urged all courts to have “no truck with it”.

See original at BBC

A Few Questions for Belle de Jour, Call Girl and Scientist

November 20, 2009, 1:30 pm
By RYAN HAGEN

In 2003, a young American woman in London studying for her PhD. ran into money trouble. To support herself while writing her thesis, she joined an escort service. Under the assumed name Belle de Jour, she started to blog her experiences. That blog led to a series of successful, jaunty memoirs beginning with 2005’s The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. The books were adapted for television in the U.K. (where she is portrayed by Billie Piper) and later in the U.S. All the while, as Belle de Jour garnered more attention — and criticism, for portraying prostitution as a glamorous career choice — the woman behind Belle de Jour struggled to keep her anonymity. This month, as an ex-boyfriend threatened to blow her cover, Belle approached one of her critics, the London journalist India Knight of the Sunday Times, to reveal her identity. That resulted in an article, published Nov. 15, outing her as Dr. Brooke Magnanti, 34, a neurotoxicologist at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health. This week, she agreed to answer a few questions for the Freakonomics blog, about her work as a call girl and as a scientist. Continue reading

Prostitution in Georgian London: Harlot’s progress

Oct 15th 2009
From The Economist print edition

The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital. By Dan Cruickshank. Random House: 688 pages; £25. Buy from Amazon.co.uk

"Connoisseurs" by Thomas Rowlandson

"Connoisseurs" by Thomas Rowlandson

AS MANY as one in five young women were prostitutes in 18th-century London. The Covent Garden that tourists frequent today was the centre of a vast sex trade strewn across hundreds of brothels and so-called coffee houses. Fornication in public was common and even children were routinely treated for venereal disease. A German visitor observed a nation that had overstepped all others “in immorality and addiction to debauchery”.

English society expected, even encouraged, men to pay for sex. Prejudice barred women from all but menial jobs. Prostitution at least offered financial independence: a typical harlot could earn in a month what a tradesman or clerk would earn in a year. For a few beautiful and savvy women, the gamble paid off. Lavinia Fenton, a child prostitute, married a duke. But most prostitutes were destined for disease, despair and early death. Continue reading

UK: A law which will protect women from exploitation

Letters:
UK news | The Guardian
Thursday 22 October 2009

Nick Davies follows a long tradition of saying that trafficking is not a big problem and so no action should be taken to deal with it. I have always been of the view that anyone coerced into selling their body experiences unacceptable abuse of their human rights. That is as true if 10 women are coerced, as if 100 are.

The law I have campaigned for seeks only to protect women who have been subject to such exploitation. It would make it an offence for someone to pay for sex where the person providing the sex was coerced. A previous draft of the law was claimed to put at risk prostitute women who paid a maid to help them be safe. Now there is no possible ambiguity about the proposed offence. It only occurs where a woman has been subject to exploitation such as force, threats or deception. It is sad that the Guardian has joined the campaign to protect men from prosecution where they pay women in such circumstances for sexual services.

This is rape, Continue reading