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The labour government’s crack down on the sex industry outlined in the policing and crime act becomes law on the 1st of April. The laws will further isolate sex workers from the protection of the law leaving them vulnerable and isolated. They have chosen April fools day to introduce their shameful laws.
The two major changes are:
A) The criminalising of clients. Section 14 creates a new strict liability offence for anyone who pays for or who promises to pay for the services of a prostitute who has been exploited. By exploited the law appears to mean that a prostitute who has been encouraged or induced into working. This inducement includes, force, threats (which may or may not be physical), coercion or deception. This new law also covers Northern Ireland as well as England and Wales.
B) Section 21 allows the police to ask the courts to close on suspicion premises that they believe are being used for certain types of prostitution or pornography.
• Paying for the sexual services of a child
• Causing or inciting child prostitution or pornography
• Controlling a child prostitute or a child involved in pornography
• Arranging or facilitating child prostitution or pornography
• Causing or inciting prostitution for gain
• Controlling prostitution for gain
Other changes relate to street prostitution. The term common prostitute is gone. I think that we are supposed to be grateful for this. A new law targets street workers with an offence of persistent loitering. This targets street workers who are convicted of loitering or soliciting on two occasions in the same place with in a three month period. This is covered in section 17 which now allows a court to order convicted offenders to attend rehabilitation rather than receive a fine. The offender will have to attend a total of three meetings with a named supervisor who will try and persuade the offender to leave prostitution. This rehabilitation is over a six month period. Failure to attend can result in a fine or imprisonment. Section 19 targets the client (kerb crawler) who can now be convicted on a first offence for soliciting.
The result of these changes which are being accompanied by press coverage aimed at frightening clients is that an industry already isolated and afraid of the police will also now be targeted by criminals who will recognise a vulnerable but lucrative victim. The government claimed that this was not an attack on the sex industry but that it wanted to tackle trafficking; obviously we now know that this was a politician’s version of the truth. What they have done is to try and introduce Swedish legislation by slight of hand.
Instead of using the original wording that would have made it illegal to use the services of a prostitute controlled for gain which would have met with stronger opposition they have sneakily inserted the word exploited into the final drafting of the law. This is a word open to interpretation by both the police and the courts.
The new brothel closure orders will result in sex workers no longer willing to take the risk of calling the police if an incident occurs for fear of being closed or/and arrested. Criminals will recognise a soft target and brothels will be forced to buy protection. The government has created a potentially violent and volatile and exploitable mess. It is shameful and disgraceful what this labour government has done. They have isolated the most vulnerable, the very people they said they wanted to help. Already in certain areas the police are visiting brothels which are well established and who the police know have no connection to the trafficking of women or men or underage boys and girls with warnings that the law changes on the first of April. That sounds pretty intimidating to me.