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UK Ugly Mugs inititive – Who Does It Actually Help

I was sent this article written by Steve, Newcastle Escort . He asks in the article very similar questions to those posed by myself in a previous article published just after the scheme was launched. I think that, considering the growing criticism, those who run this nation wide ugly mug scheme should respond with answers. If they are to promote the Ugly Mug Scheme as something worth supporting to those whom it is supposed to help then they must convince those people that the scheme is useful and that it works and is effective. That does not seem to be the case.

    Ugly Mugs – Who Does It Actually Help

There’s been a lot of hype about the Nationwide Ugly Mugs Scheme which is a pilot scheme introduced by the UKNSWP. I was sceptical about it when I first heard about it a few years ago and now it has been introduced I am even more sceptical about it’s usefulness.

Who is truly benefiting from the Ugly Mugs scheme? It’s certainly not sex worker’s like myself. Take as an example a recent release from the Ugly Mugs scheme. It relates to a complaint made by a male sex worker who didn’t get paid by a client who was drunk and told him he kept a knife, in a box, on his bedside cabinet throughout the appointment. Extracts from the warning read: “business was agreed to take place at the man’s home which was a flat in a communal block in Basildon” and continued with “He is described as; 45-49, White, 5ft 9, stocky, shaven grey/white hair, blue eyes and pale complexion, with a local accent and scars to his torso” . Yes the warnings are as vague as this. No address, no phone number, nothing.

Sex workers like myself need to access real information if we are to protect ourselves. Phone numbers released that look like this “0*********1” do nothing to help, neither does communal block in Basildon. There are probably about 200 similar blocks of flats in Basildon. To be honest the description sounds like every other client who has walked through my door in the last two weeks. In reality sex workers only get to see a client when he/she /they arrive, they don’t furnish us in advance with a photo album to check out if they have hidden scars. It’s too late once we are in the flat and naked to suddenly realise that he does have a scar and a knife just like the character mentioned in the vague description released as an alert from the nation wide ugly mugs scheme.

I’ve read and been told that the Ugly Mugs scheme is designed to help sex workers stay safe. “David 07***4****1 ginger cropped hair, stocky” doesn’t help anyone stay safe. Are sex workers to be expected to carry around a small note book with phone numbers partly blanked out, that we then have to double check against the often thousands of phone numbers most of us already have stored in our phones? and are we expected to do this in often a very short time. No, in reality that is not how the business works. The police are quite happy to release on Crimewatch and the local news, mugs shots of people they’re interested in, yet we just get “Bloke with dark hair and a ‘tache with scar on his leg” or starred out mobile phone numbers. Mobile phones DO NOT recognise part phone numbers.

Basically most of the information that the Nation wide Ugly Mugs scheme release is absolutely pointless.

So who is the scheme really for?

The Ugly Mugs scheme is effectively just another pat on the back for sex worker do-gooders, something extra for their CV’s, a step on the promotions ladder for many. How many of the UKNSWP board have been actual sex workers, if they had been they’d realise that we need hard facts like addresses and phone numbers and if they can’t give that information out then they should stop trying to promote a service which is a huge big fat white elephant. It doesn’t help any of us, I wish they’d stop telling educated people like myself that it does. It’s doesn’t !!!!!!

The best sex worker warning systems are the ones that sex workers administer themselves, based on local knowledge passed from sex worker to sex worker by text message or through messages left in secret sections of local sex worker message boards that can only be accessed by sex workers. Such messages give full descriptions, telephone numbers, pictures and gaydar/squirt (as examples) user name profiles and names and addresses.

Ugly Mugs as it exists appears to be a feel good exercise for the UKNSWP to make them look like they’re pro-actively helping us, the people who effectively pay their wages. The dim reality however is that they’re not helping us at all. They’re just making noises to protect their own funding whilst in reality the scheme doesn’t help the ordinary home based sex worker like myself. The scheme, as many sex workers are now saying, is only helping its promoters to move on in their future careers and give them yet another excuse for an all expenses paid 2 day jaunt away to another county to talk about how they’re saving the lives of sex workers. How ??? The information is pointless.

If the many projects involved within the UKNSWP are to be truly useful to sex workers then they must first decide whose side they are really on, ours or the authorities. Too many projects have very cosy relationships with the police. They must instead become more pro active in demands for decriminalisation of our work and invite more sex workers to advise them and have less association with the police who are the enemy of sex workers. Grand, but pointless schemes such as the Nation Wide Ugly Mug Scheme is not useful unless it is changed so that it meets the real requirements of sex workers rather than the requirements of the authorities.

Please UKNSWP. feel free to contact me, my landline and mobile are on my website, I would be happy to tell yourselves, the police and your funding sponsors just how unhelpful the current scheme is. I am happy to meet you all face to face, as a real sex worker and tell you exactly what’s wrong with the scheme from an actual sex workers point of view.


About Douglas Fox

41 comments on “UK Ugly Mugs inititive – Who Does It Actually Help

  1. jemima101
    8 November, 2012

    Really interested, because I have been a supporter of NUM from the start. It seemed so different to the normal rescue industry government initiatives. However never having received an alert I assumed that they would contain the kind of details you describe, at the very least mobile number and profile name. What use are the vague descriptions

    • elrond
      9 November, 2012

      You mention profile name. That may also be a problem in most of the reports appear to be street related or initiated out side of ‘escort’ type work. Sorry if that sounds elitist.. So no adultwork profile names or email addresses available.

  2. Steve
    8 November, 2012

    Thanks for publishing my thoughts. I am dismayed at the information this scheme releases, it’s doesn’t help any of us. Blanked out, non existent or incomplete telephone numbers are pointless. 99% of my appointments come from an initial phone call or text. That is our main line of defense against these people. NUM scheme fails to realise that. The alerts are pointless until they can get legal clearance to release the telephone numbers. It’s even worse for incall escorts too, how do we know it’s a lunatic until he attacks us when we get starred out numbers. If you want to protect sex workers, do it properly, not half heartedly. You’re protecting no one with this information and the more you promote it for your own promotion, the more sex workers you’re annoying.

  3. I cannot speak for the scheme, however as a client, I feel there is a widespread fear of defaming a wrongly identified individual, and of individual escorts breaching data protection in unlawfully processing or storing this details after they are no longer necessary due to the broadness of the legislation.

    I am fully in favour doing everything legally possible to protect sex workers, but there are legal limits and privacy considerations which must be borne in mind. It’s unfortunate that it seems to be another issue which sex workers feel there is a “them” and “us” approach.

  4. Steve
    8 November, 2012

    In understand your point Benjaxed, however…. my point is that the scheme isn’t actually helping those it’s designed to help. The scheme should not have been launched until they had the legal stuff sorted out. If the government were really that keen on helping us, they’d have allowed them to release the actual information that sex workers need. There are hundreds of warning related sites Benjaxed which have full details of the assailant.

    The current scheme doesn’t help anyone it’s intended to protect.

    As for escorts breaching data protection, well if someone rings my phone, I have the right to store their number in it if I want, like you have. iPhones store the last 30 – 40 calls anyway and how long does no longer necessary mean , a week, a day, a year. In the case of guys who have ripped off other escorts, spat in their face, no showed them or sent them on hoax calls, the amount of time necessary is my entire working career, incase they do it to me 6 months or a year later and don’t think for one minute that doesn’t happen, it does. I have had guys no show me and ring 2 years later from the same number. They’re shocked that I still have their details. I will keep their details for as long as necessary to stop them doing it to me again.

    • I am in agreement with you if their is a widespread view among sex workers that the scheme is not fit for purpose, and potentially the funding could be used in a more effective way to provide services for sex workers. Certainly from looking through their publications, they did obtain good but very cautious legal advice. I’m sure if they’d obtained equally good counsel, they could have got advice that might have allowed them to be much more explicit.

      As I understand it, there is nothing wrong with keeping the phone number provided it is not classified as “personal information” (i.e: not associated with a person’s name like a typical “punting phone”). So depending on the circumstances, I do feel more could be done in terms of providing full phone numbers. In any case, it is a matter for the individual to seek the removal of such details if they feel their data protection rights have been breached.

      I believe that in 99.9% of cases that it’s absolutely genuine, and it’s justifiable but I can imagine cases where it could be wrong and someone becomes a victim of mistaken identity, or is wrongly accused of a crime outside the realm of available protections.

      • Steve
        8 November, 2012

        In my case I label all timewasters in my phone prefixed with the letter W, so they fall to the bottom of my address book. It stands for wanker. I label it was W NS 290912 which means No show on the 29th September 2012. This will be someone who got to the end of my street, got the door number, didn’t show and turned their phone off or W Cancels Repeatedly 290812 meaning he’s booked a few times, then cancels, latest being 29th August 2012 W texter coke 270612 will be someone who has text repeatedly over weeks and offered drugs as an incentive to visit him ( I don’t take them so they get barred anyway). I have an iPhone and I keep all texts that don’t result in an appointment for 4 weeks then I have a night when I delete them. Most prolific texters and timewasters will text, then text again when they’re bored 3 weeks later. One offs are not stored, prolific ones are. Anyone who texts, rings, books, arrives pays and leaves is deleted UNLESS they say, Steve, keep my number so you know it’s me if I text so I can book discreetly. I have worked on an off for 12 years and in 12 years I have never ever ever ever text or called a client except if they’re running late or if they have rang and I missed their call by seconds. That’s the way it should be.

        I know that clients are nervous about escorting storing numbers and I reassure mine that I only keep their details if they piss me off. Otherwise there is no need

  5. Douglas Fox
    8 November, 2012

    I think that the promotion of this scheme as being something that it is not is the problem. It pointedly does not help the average sex worker one little bit but does help promote the careers of those pushing it. As a sex worker I think that sex workers in general are tired of do gooders talking about sex work as something extraordinary that either needs controlled or special help. Most sex workers are actually acute business people who are increasingly getting tired of do gooders from all sides, supportive, anti sex work, or the lucrative rescue industry. Lots of people make lots of money off the backs of sex workers…I think it is time that all sex worker debates start with sex workers leading those debates rather than so called experts who are usually rewarded generously for talking about things they have little or no practical experience of..

  6. sexworkie
    8 November, 2012

    I work for a company that operates escort advertising directories and we run our own Ugly Mugs schemes, the most well-known of which is the E-I Ugly Mugs scheme in Ireland. We welcome the UKNSWP Nationwide Ugly Mugs Scheme and we would encourage sex workers in the UK to use it.

    I can understand the criticism of NUM here, I think it is natural for sex workers to want full phone numbers in UM warnings. But there are a whole lot of legal issues with UM schemes sharing full phone numbers. There are issues beyond the legal ones also.

    When running a UM scheme controlling who is using your UM system is always difficult. You want as many sex workers as possible to have access but you don’t want undesirables getting in. People who abuse sex workers actively pretend to be sex workers in order to get access to UM schemes and invariably sometimes they are successful. If you had a UM system that gave out full numbers in warnings, imagine the damage “bad apples” that get in could do? They could literally send an SMS to every person you issues a warning about telling them that they are in the UM and why.

    UM’s have a duty to the sex workers reporting incidents as well as the sex workers using the UM system to receive warnings. If you are a sex worker who has just been violently attacked and you contact a UM scheme to report this, is it safe for you if that UM scheme then shares the full number of your attacker and details of the incident with all their users, possibly hundreds or thousands of other people, anyone of whom could contact the attacker and inform him of that he has just been reported to a UM? Remember many attacks on sex workers are not reported to the police and the victim is a sex worker, possibly in a very vulnerable situation, working alone, the attacker knows where she lives etc.

    I understand why sex workers want full numbers from UM schemes but I think everyone needs to understand that there are serious issues with UM’s operating that way.

    I would think as well, when you are running a national UM, funded by the government and endorsed by the police, you are in a tougher position that those running local private UMs.

    It is right that sex workers tell NUM what they are not happy about, and if NUM continues hopefully NUM will improve as it goes on, based on sex worker feedback.

    We do not think NUM replaces the need for any other UMs. We think if you are a sex worker in the UK, you should use NUM in addition to any other UM schemes that may be useful to you, whether they be local project schemes, website schemes or whatever else.

    I see a number of benefits to NUM.

    * They are nationwide. If you don’t have a UM in your area yet, now you do have NUM at least. No longer is any sex worker in the UK completely without a UM.

    * A lot of sex workers telephone us to report incidents and they also need information about something else. I imagine NUM is helpful in this way also, I know they maintain lists of sex work projects and other helpful organisations all over the UK. Not all sex workers know the UK well, and when they find themselves a victim of crime, it is good that they have somebody they get in touch with to report the incident, and also ask any questions they may have, like is there somewhere I can go for emergency sexual health help.

    * I believe NUM are collecting information about serious offenders and via their relationship with the police this information is going into a national crime database without compromising the anonymity of the reporting sex worker. This intelligence can be used to help deal with and prevent serious crime against sex workers and others. I believe this is unique to NUM. Our UM certainly can’t do this. I think it is incredibly valuable that this is now happening, it is good for the reporting sex workers to be able to do that positive thing of reporting in this way, and it is good for all of us, it could save much harm being done.

    * NUM can provide a clearer picture of crime against sex workers in UK, which is very important as we need the police and other to recognise the problems that exist if we want to see improved working conditions for sex workers.

    I’d also like to say that UKNSWP have published a lot of incredibly useful information and guidance about running UMs over the years that we have found incredibly useful and I imagine has also been useful to anybody else running a UM. Also, if we have ever contacted them with questions or seeking advice they have always been helpful. I don’t think they got much funding and it is only a pilot running for 1 year. I think it would be a real shame if it closes after the year is up.

  7. I’d also note that it is possible that any sex worker who is the victim of a crime could be at a disadvantage in having it prosecuted where the accused can argue that widespread disclosure of his details prejudiced his chance of a fair trial.

    It’s unfortunate, I suppose it depends on asking what the purpose of the scheme is, as Steve has questioned? Is it a support service for victims in order to assist in reporting and ensuring prosecution of crimes against sex workers, or is it a project focused on prevention of crime against sex workers?

    • Steve
      9 November, 2012

      My point was that I feel that the scheme, benefits those that wish to move up the career ladder from it. None of the information received helps sex workers decide which clients are safe and which are not. It dismays me a little

  8. Douglas Fox
    8 November, 2012

    A couple of points raised by sexworkie:

    A) The gathering of information in regard to violent crimes could have two consequences. The information could be used to support efforts for decriminalisation but it could also be used to justify further abolitionist policies. They could be used to confirm the notion that sex work is intrinsically dangerous and therefor has to be further controlled. That would not be a positive outcome.

    B) anonymous reporting of violent incidents still leaves the affected sex worker the victim with out recourse to justice. Involving the police in any form is dangerous for sex workers because of current legislation. Local projects have many variants in regard to how they respond to sex workers and even which sex workers they work with.

    I was initially a supporter of the idea but I am afraid I worry about its practical usefulness and how the information that is shared with the government and the police is t be used. That is going to be the big issue I think. I hope that I am not being too pessimistic.

    • sexworkie
      8 November, 2012

      Re information about violence against sex workers being used by abolitionists to justify further abolitionist policies, yes this is an issue, but I do believe if you look at the evidence here carefully it supports decriminalisation not abolition. An important thing to note is that the people committing violent crimes against sex workers are not all clients, far from it, though many of them are pseudo-clients, in that they pose as a client in order to offend. Initially we launched our UM calling it the “Bad Clients System”, but then we changed the name to “Ugly Mugs” quite promptly, realising that our original name choice was only feeding into the false myth that all people who abuse sex workers are clients. I believe UKNSWP have never had abolitionist tendencies, they respect the right of sex workers to choose to remain in sex work or leave sex work. More statistical data showing the facts about crime against sex workers would be a good thing I think. We need to use it to challenge the problems. Why are sex workers criminalised for working with a friend? Why are sex workers not automatically given the protection of the media not being able to publish their names, like all rape victims have had since the 70s, to enable them to report crime and seek justice without fear of being forever exposed in the media as a prostitute because they reported somebody for violently robbing them or whatever the crime was? Regards NUM involving police, I believe they do this on a national level only, not on a local level and they have strict procedures in place to ensure the escort remains anonymous including not disclosing details of where she works etc. But NUM themselves would probably be best to clarify things here.

  9. Douglas Fox
    8 November, 2012

    I would add on a plus note that the potential of a nationwide scheme is enormous. Some local ugly mug schemes run by sex workers for example can be very selective on whom is allowed to look. If you fall out with the owner then you are in trouble. A national scheme that could work as well as local schemes and which was run totally independently would be tremendous. So I am not against the idea just the present set up.

    • sexworkie
      8 November, 2012

      Yes, this is a good point. Our own UM is often criticised on the level of “Hey why is a private company running this, that’s not right?” I see these escorts’ point! I’d also say that many escorts do find our UM useful, so it is not a bad thing that it is there, but absolutely there should be UMs completely independent of commercial websites, sex workers should not be left with only the choice of using escort website UMs. UMs on commercial websites can be very good I think, there is room for this type of UM, but it is very important also that there are UMs like NUM that are independent of any commercial business. In an ideal world sex workers would have UM choices, multiple UM schemes they could use.

      • Steve
        8 November, 2012

        A local UM scheme run by a local sex worker forum in Newcastle has me barred because I fell out with someone over a difference of opinion. Rather than bar me from posting and allow me to see warnings, they barred me from the site. Your safety is in their hands because they suddenly don’t like you. This is a local forum that takes paid advertising and only allows it’s paid advertisers to see warnings too.

  10. sexworkie
    8 November, 2012

    All UMs have advantages and disadvantages. I don’t doubt that for some sex workers at this time NUM is not going to prove more useful to them than another local UM scheme they are using, in terms of providing useful warnings to help them stay safe. But there are not UMs in all areas. NUM is offering all UK sex workers a a properly run UM, which they can use, in addition to any other UMs they also use, plus a way to report crime to the police anonymously (not a feature of other UMs) and possibly a very important step forward in combating crime against sex workers, and NUM can raise awareness of hate crime against sex workers nationally, which is also very important as we fight for safer working conditions for sex workers, not more bad laws on top of our already bad laws that put sex workers at risk. Also, warnings without phone numbers are not always useless, it is often very useful to know what types of offenders there are operating in your area, what types of scams are going on, what type of tricks people are using to abuse sex workers. I hope sex workers can work with NUM to improve NUM. It is a new scheme and no doubt it is not perfect yet. But I really feel strongly NUM is a scheme with not a lot of funding that could be really great for sex workers across the UK.

  11. Steve
    8 November, 2012

    sexworkie – I know their scams and their tricks but bloke in communal block isn’t helpful. The most crucial identifying piece of info in the original post was the scar and the knife. Stuff you see too late. I am sorry but that doesn’t help. When he phoned you don’t say “Eeeeeeeeee by the way, you’re from Basildon so do you have a scar and a box at the side of bed containing a knife”. No….. you don’t. Also you don’t stop seeing guys in apartment blocks in Basildon because of some nutter with a knife. “Private communal block near Londis” or “Council communal block near Sacred Heart School” would be soooooooooooooo much more helpful. Yes they might not get that info to begin with but they could reply back and ask. There is googlemaps where, if we have time we could check out where Sacred Heart School is or the local Londis. But communal block in Basildon is like saying “nettle near hedgerow”

    • sexworkie
      8 November, 2012

      steve – I do see your points and they have validity. I just also see positives about NUM and hope it can take on sex worker feedback like yours and improve, get better, grow into a project that many, many sex workers will see to be of great value to the industry. About your other point above, which I can’t reply to for some reason, yes these are common problems with commercial escort website UMs. With ours, we don’t restrict access to advertisers only, any escort can apply for and get and keep access to our UM, they do not have to be a paying customer of ours at all ever. The banning issue is one we’ve had though and it came to a head recently in fact. We banned so few escorts from our message boards it rarely came up over the years. It wasn’t that we ever wanted a ban from message boards to mean a ban from UM too for escorts, but it did because this was just the way our software worked. However it came to a head recently like I said, escorts complained on mass, we conceded they were right, and we are now committed to making sure a message board ban doesn’t mean a UM ban too for escorts.

  12. elrond
    8 November, 2012

    A couple of points.

    The NUM scheme was set up with the input of current sex workers. A know personally one sex worker who spent a great deal of her time working with the group.

    Steve has in his text exaggerated the removal of digits. I am looking at an alert which misses 3 digits. I do take the point that this does not help with blocking calls. Though for an app developer it would be straight forward to develop such an application, at least for Android phones. If I can’t find one, then I may make this a project.

    One other aspect of the NUM that does annoy me, they give large amount of credit to certain supporters who I don’t believe support the standards of the UKNSWP. The latest two being Eaves (criminalise clients) and Vera Baird standing as a PC up North.

    • Steve
      8 November, 2012

      The Basildon report doesn’t even list a phone number

      Any blanks is too many

    • Steve
      8 November, 2012

      Yes Elron it was exaggerated to make a point. 3 blanks opens up 999 possibilities. The average sex worker phone stores 250. Mine is infinite but I’m not sitting all day typing in 999 possibilities

      • sexworkie
        9 November, 2012

        I think exaggerating the number of digits missing was wrong, that makes your article unfair.

      • Steve
        9 November, 2012

        and having warnings with no phone number is I take it.

        Having any blanks isn’t fair

    • sexworkie
      9 November, 2012

      I accept that you feel having any digits missing is wrong. But I think if you write an article you need to be fair, and removing more digits that NUM did in the NUM examples you provided is not fair in my view. I have posted here about the problems with UMs publishing full phone numbers in warnings. Regards warnings having no phone number, might that not be because there is no number available? E.g. If the offender stole the sex worker’s phone, or if it was an outdoor sex worker who met the offender without ever getting a phone number.

      • Steve
        9 November, 2012

        At no point did I quote they were from the Ugly Mugs scheme, I said numbers that look like this and the David number wasn’t a quote from the scheme either, it an example of what we don’t want.

        The full report mentions that the client offered to pay up in installments, so the sex worker has been in contact with him since, to no avail, so I presume there is a number. Who ever heard of a sex worker vistting a client in his home without a number. You hardly put yourself in such danger in the first place with silly things like that

  13. elrond
    8 November, 2012

    I believe I have found a call blocker which works with Android phones and allows wild card characters. Will give it a test

    • sexworkie
      8 November, 2012

      Interesting. We tried to do an Apple app a couple of years ago. Nightmare! And then Apple wouldn’t allow it anyway with all their rules against anything that seems remotely ‘adult’ in nature. We are trying again currently, Apple and Android. Decent app development is expensive in my limited experience, much more expensive than web. I imagine for a project on a tight budget, app development may not be a possibility for them.

      • elrond
        8 November, 2012

        Extreme Call Blocker for the Android phone. Might not be quite what you want, options seem to hang up, put into voicemail, mute the call. Also blocks text messages. Will block text messages by text content, and number, so can block PPI and accident claims texts.

        Nice timer feature so you can block phone calls after a time, and whitelist ones you want to receive.

        The number can be wild carded, have tested this.

        I have to admit most escorts I associate with tend to be Android Fan Girls, part of the selection criteria

    • Steve
      8 November, 2012

      No good to me

      I have an iphone and most use a pay as you go cheapie nokia

      • JB
        10 November, 2012

        My experience, like Elrond, is that most escorts have smart phones

      • jemima101
        10 November, 2012

        I have to say that smart phones are more common in my experience, since you can also log on and check emails etc.

      • Steve
        10 November, 2012

        Maybe with their private phone but that hasn’t been my experience. Many escorts, to stay completely anonymous will use a PAYG phone on an unregistered sim card. You have to remember that most of the UM scheme seems to be alerts on attacks etc with streetworkers, not escorts with smart phones

  14. JB
    8 November, 2012

    As an owner of a website with an UM scheme, I might have a different viewpoint to some of the other posters.

    As pointed out in a previous post, there are legal reasons that full phone numbers, addresses etc can’t be distributed. I know of a lot a websites that blank out part of phone numbers, I only know of one that publishes them in full.

    In general the NUM publishes numbers with 3 digits starred out. Most sites do the same. I agree a full number is best, but a partial number is better than nothing.

    There are numerous local schemes, some better than others. There are also many websites (local and national). At the moment it’s a postcode lottery how much UM information an individual receives.

    Sex workers operate in different ways. Some have internet access and look at various websites for warnings, others don’t. Some have access to local drop-in centres that have UM schemes, others don’t. One method of communication doesn’t suit all. The NUM’s use of texts and online (plus a few other methods) potentially reaches the largest number of sex workers.

    Whilst most of the time a sex worker’s local reports are the most important, those who commit these offences often travel so warnings outside a workers area can also be relevant. There are also escorts who tour or go to outcalls outside their area. These factors make a national scheme more desirable than a collection of local schemes.

    The op complained that the warnings didn’t contain enough information. That could be that the person giving the information was vague. My own experience is that some will give a full and detailed report, other reports will be minimal.

    There are many different views on how a scheme should be run. For example, some take the view warnings should be public so the maximum amount of sex workers see it. Others think it should only be visible to verified sex workers. Setting up an UM scheme you are going to do it wrong in some people’s eyes no matter what you do. Damned f you do, damned if you don’t.

    No matter how well a scheme is run, it will fail if not supported. The NUM is a new scheme, it isn’t perfect, but the UKNSWP listens and tries to improve the scheme from the feedback they get.

    Whilst the NUM scheme is not perfect at least they are trying to do something about sex worker safety. What are those condemning it doing to improve things?

  15. Douglas Fox
    9 November, 2012

    My concerns are not so much the lack of information given, although it seems pointless and Steve is not the only one making comment on it. The fact is that the scheme is collating information and information in the wrong hands is dangerous. It has been pointed out that Vera Baird and the Eves project are involved and that is not good. The UKNSWP are a collection of projects, some good and some not so good but all usually with an interest in the money side of sex work which for them is street sex or sex workers with issues and problems. So the average sex worker is rarely involved within the remit of many projects. The UKNSWP also have an often cosy relationship with the police and with the home office with whom information from the ugly mug scheme will be shared. Personally I want the police knowing as little as possible about me or my clients, good or bad. The reason being that both I am potentially at risk and so are my good clients if reported abuse against sex workers is presented as high. Information can be easily distorted by groups and individuals such as Vera Baird and the Eves project.

    I was one of the sex workers initially involved in the project but I quickly cooled when I learned about some of the people involved, the scarcity of useful information and the potential misuse of information.

  16. Douglas Fox
    10 November, 2012

    Hi JB, Some escorts do have smart phones but as Steve says many more do not. Those working for example in the sport or on adult work etc really do not need or want expensive phones. All they require or want is an inexpensive and untraceable cheap pay as you go phone that receives calls and texts. They deal with instant appointments one after another and want complete anonymity. I would suggest that these probably make up the majority of sex workers.

  17. JB
    10 November, 2012

    Hi Douglas. We seem to going off at a tangent about types of phones.

    Storing complete numbers on your phone would obviously be an advantage if that were possible.

    There is a real danger that too much emphasis is being put on phone numbers. Yes it’s quick and easy if a ‘bad’ number comes up on your phone, but is putting your reliance on it a good thing? What happens if the guy has changed his number? New payg sims are cheap enough.

    The whole of the warning needs to be looked at not just the phone number

    • Steve
      10 November, 2012

      I completely agree JB but the phone number is the first line of defense. Some do change their number. I had one timewaster recently who re-booked me a few days later on a completely different number. When he arrived I realised straight away who he was but he never asked why I had ignored his calls for 2 months from his other phone.

  18. Good Escort
    12 November, 2012

    I haven’t quite decided about the UKNSWP scheme myself. I think it’s positive that a national scheme exists and I’m pleased it’s there for people who don’t have access to other resources, especially street workers who haven’t been able to benefit from sharing information in the same way as those of us who work online. I think the scheme will help some people in these circumstances and, if even one just person is saved from a serious attack as a result, then the scheme has to be worthwhile.

    As a national, government sponsored scheme however, it’s clear that UKNSWP have to remain within the law. It’s illegal to publish personally identifiable information without the owner’s permission and making public allegations regarding a person’s behaviour can also lead to problems with libel, not to mention mistaken identity, etc. The scheme is only reporting allegations, these Ugly Mugs have not been convicted, and therefore it’s right that UKNSWP is restricted by the rules that apply to any other organisation in this situation.

    Escorts who work online and by phone have a different set of requirements for an Ugly Mugs scheme. We tend to be more at risk of fraud and time wasters than of, thankfully, violence and therefore need ways to share information that prevent these kinds of problems. We need the numbers, email addresses and profile names of the guys that act in this way so we can identify them should they contact us.

    I made the decision to allow escorts to share information in this private environment as I couldn’t see how else it could be useful. I’m aware the website is not strictly compliant with ICO guidelines, though I would argue that I am ultimately not responsible for the data shared in a forum by its members. That however is a decision I can make as an individual, not something a national organisation could support even if it wanted to.

    For now, I think we should give UKNSWP a chance to grow. It’s only in the first year of its pilot and the feedback it receives could well shape the service in the future. Even as it is, the scheme is good for ensuring that escorts have better access to the police and the scheme allows more people to be informed of serious incidents than ever before.

    I do believe that UKNWWP should be used alongside services such as Good Escort, for problems that need to be escalated due to violence or serious fraud. For standard time wasters and the other information we escorts find useful to discuss, a forum such a Good Escort is, for now, the better solution.

    As for data collection used for future political decisions, that’s a separate issue we should take up with our politicians. It seems to be that most UK data regarding prostitution comes from the “problem” end of the market, as it’s collected by the authorities and organisations that assist and police community problems. Very little data is collected from the thousands of men and women who make sex work their career, pay their taxes and never come to the attention of the authorities. These professionals go unseen by our politicians and therefore policy decisions often ignore them.

  19. Douglas Fox
    12 November, 2012

    I would agree good escort that what we really need is research into how many sex workers there are in the UK and a break down of the types of work they do and the markets they work in. The emphasis is always on street work and of course trafficking. As we know from research trafficking is minimal and street work represents the smallest percentage of sex work and seems to be in decline.

    Until the government knows how many sex workers there are and understands and comprehends the huge variety of markets and types of sex work experiences out there then there cannot be any policy that can have any validity with regards to forming useful sex work legislation. At present all legislation is based on the worst scenario cases which attract the money for friendly projects and abolitionists alike.

    The UK UM scheme is an experiment and potentially could be good but until I know for certain that information gathered is not being shared with abolitionists like Vera Baird and the Eves project who will use it against sex workers then I will remain reticent. I am also concerned with how the police will use information in the future. Also the information being given to sex workers is not the best and as has been pointed out the street workers who potentially could benefit most are the ones least likely to have the smart phones etc needed to access the data given.

    The UK UM scheme exists however so sex workers have no choice but to wait and see how it works out.

  20. Pingback: That Was the Week That Was (#46) « The Honest Courtesan

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This entry was posted on 8 November, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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