Sexual Freedom Coalition

Posts Tagged ‘prostitution’


From: Jane Scoular
Reader in Law
University of Strathclyde

I would firstly wish to raise concerns as to the short deadline for these proposals which have, as yet, not be widely publicised or debated. Details of the 6 month review are not available to ascertain the rationale of the reforms or indeed the research evidence supporting the government’s proposed approach. This is particularly worrying given the grave inadequacies of recently commissioned work see for eg academic concerns regarding the commissioning of and failure to comply with basic ethical standards in reports such as ‘Sex for Sale’, ‘Big Brothel’ ‘Challenging Men’s Demand for Prostitution in Scotland’ and A Critical Examination of Responses to Prostitution in Four Countries: Victoria, Australia; Ireland; the Netherlands; and Sweden1. Also the Home Office’s earlier review ‘Paying the Price’ and ‘A Co-ordinated Strategy’ was met with a substantial body of criticism in the academic press. Concerns were expressed specifically about the use of criminal law to tackle a complex issue of social inequality, the introduction of compulsory orders designed to exit women from prostitution and the lack of consultation with sexworkers as stake-holders. These important issues do not appear to have been taken into account in formulating these most recent proposals, which have not been widely debated. I would hope that this call for responses is only the beginning of a more extensive consultation with all key stakeholders which would presumably help to broaden out the current narrow focus of reform, which follows a narrow criminalising and prohibitionist line, into a more inclusive, research informed reform strategy which is germane to the realities of commercial sex in the 21st century.

I would make the following observations:

(a) a new criminal offence of paying for sex with a person controlled for gain;

While acknowledging the motivations behind this new offence I would question its efficacy. The use of the extremely wide term ‘person controlled for gain’ and the failure to state whether knowledge is required for the crime may mean that this proposed new law is inoperable and would in effect offers little by way of protection to those it seeks to help. This stems from the narrow use of the criminal law to tackle a much wider and complex social issue, namely the conditions and legal status of economic migrancy, the realities of poverty and survival and the unequal and unregulated nature of the sex industry. These structural factors require much greater political action than that offered by criminalising a small section of purchasers. This in any event is unlikely to if there is a requirement of criminal intent. Knowledge of a person’s controlled status would be difficult to establish, meaning that few, if any, prosecutions would result. As Archard notes

Criminal liability presupposes fault, and normally this obtains in the presence of clear intention, recklessness or negligence. [If the suggested proposal applies] where someone does not know, and further is not unreasonable in not knowing, that he is deriving benefits from a practice that has evil consequences …[it] would be a case of a strict liability offence, and such offences are thought to be unfair2

This would this make the law of merely of symbolic rather than practical use and given there are many practical ways in which the government could improve the position of vulnerable sexworkers it may be something of a distraction. It would also potentially criminalise a wide group of purchasers and is likely to stymie an important source of information as to the presence of ‘trafficked’ and coerced sex workers.

(b) a new civil order to enable police to close brothels;

This proposal is extremely vague. On what basis would such civil orders be granted? What evidence is required? As the International Union of Sexworkers notes the

‘[p]resent law fails to make any distinction between clean, well run, tax paying brothels with fair and safe working practices, and those in which workers are coerced, exploited or treated as slaves. This wastes valuable criminal justice resources and creates a major barrier to decent owners and managers providing the facilities’

In the absence of measures to offer greater protection to indoor workers (who at present are poorly protected by virtue of quasi-illegal status of brothels and the ban on 2 women or more working collectively) this will do little to improve the condition of those who work indoors and as is clear from centuries of criminal control, banning venues will not lead to a reduction in demand but will merely displace it. Once again the interests of residents (and even then only those who object to the presence of commercial sex) are prioritised over sexworkers needs, rather than an accommodation being sought between different groups .While I would recognise the need to amend licensing laws to offer greater powers, there is more at stake than simply giving ‘local authorities and communities more powers to prevent the anti-social behaviour and nuisance that can accrue from such activities’.

(c) Amendments to the Sexual Offences Act 1985, to remove the requirements of persistence, annoyance and nuisance from the offence of kerb-crawling.
Removing the necessity for the persistence, annoyance and nuisance from the offence of kerb-crawling is a major change, one which involves a shift from a nuisance based crime to a status based crime and as such it requires careful consideration. If kerb-crawling is no longer a public order offence but the harm is infact the buying of sex by car then why not criminalise all purchasing if that is what the government really wants to do and have an open debate which will bring to the fore the serious limitations of such a policy (see for eg Scoular, J (2004b) ‘Criminalising ‘Punters’: evaluating the Swedish position on prostitution’ Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 26:195-210) which outlines the flaws of the Swedish position which the government are moving towards. Criminalising buying sex in such the indirect way suggested has serious human rights implications and practical consequences in terms of enforceability. The use of law and order rather than regulation and empowerment to deal with a complex social issue is my primary concern. (see Scoular and O’Neill Legal incursions into supply/demand: criminalising and responsibilising the buyers and sellers of sex in the UK, Scoular, J and O’Neill, M (2008) ‘Legal Incursions into Supply/ Demand: Criminalising & Responsibilising the Buyers and Sellers of Sex’ in Munro, V & Della Giusta, M (eds) Demanding Sex: Critical Reflections on the Regulation of Prostitution (Ashgate, Aldershot); Scoular, J and O’Neill, M ‘Regulating Prostitution: Social Inclusion, Responsibilisation and the Politics of Prostitution Reform’ 2007 British Journal of Criminology 47(5) 764-778). Not only does the use of criminal law fail to address with the conditions which structure the contemporary sex industry but it maintain, a significant section of the economy, behind closed doors, exacerbating its marginality and dangerousness.

Jane Scoular
7 October 2008

1 These academic commentaries critiques are available, see for example

2 ‘Criminalising the Use of Trafficked Prostitutes: Some Philosophical Issues’ Munro, V & Della Giusta, M (eds) Demanding Sex: Critical Reflections on the Regulation of Prostitution (Ashgate, Aldershot), p157. 

There are still relatively very few submissions objecting to this awful Bill, which aims to ban the buying of sexual services, close down brothels, and bust sex workers.

We have been asked to give you some guidelines on making your response. You don’t need to use any special language – just tell them what you think, plain and clear — keeping to the point — and within 4 pages.

Here are the sections to object to:-

Clause 13 Paying for the sexual services of controlled prostitutes
How on earth can a punter know whether a sex worker is controlled? How can one know if they are being forced to work by a pimp, manipulated by a husband, controlled by gangs, trafficked or (like most) working to support themselves, of his/her own free will? This clause puts all punters at unnecessary risk, and frightens innocent people off paying for sexual services that they may really need

Clause 15 Amendments to the offence of loitering by adding the word “persistently”
Adding the word “persistently” will make street workers more panicky about picking up clients, so they will rush into cars without making considered judgements, and wait for clients in more hidden, derelict areas where psychos can prey on them, putting themselves at real danger

Clause 16 Requiring sex workers who are drug addicts to enter rehab
It is not acceptable to force sex workers who have drug habits into rehabilitation and, in any case, this has been proven not to work

Clause 18 Soliciting
This clause will make it much easier for kerb crawlers to get busted and even ordinary motorists and pedestrians will get busted for stopping to ask for directions, etc.

Clause 20 Closure Orders
This will mean the police can shut down what they think is a brothel whenever they “discover” one, without requiring any evidence. This threatens sex workers who work together (much safer for them, when they do), well-run brothels, massage parlours and saunas. When establishments get closed down, sex workers will naturally resort to working on the street, where they will be more vulnerable, and risk getting murdered like the five girls in Ipswich.

Do send your submission as soon as possible, as the Bill is already being discussed by the Scrutiny Committee who definitely need your views to stop them letting this Bill become law.

Send your rant to the following address:

Don’t forget to send a copy of your objections to your MP who you can find on the following link:

To see what other people and organisations have sent in so far, see

Once we know when the Bill is going to the House of Lords, we will give you new instructions.

The Policing and Crime Bill aims to criminalise paying for sexual services of a sex worker who is trafficked and/or controlled. It includes paying for such services abroad as well as in Britain. It also aims to further criminalise kerb crawling and street prostitution, restrict lap dancing and other sex encounter venues, and make it easier for the police to close down brothels.

According to Lord Richard Faulkner, the Bill is based on lies, and needs to be fought at all costs. Thankfully, resistance is forthcoming, but your help is needed, both by sending in your views to the Scrutiny committee and to your own MP.

The Bill can be viewed here:

Click here for Sections of the Bill relating to sex work

The Policing and Crime Bill has gone before the Scrutiny Committee and they are hearing evidence between Tuesday 26th January and 26th February. Membership for the “Policing and Crime Bill” is as follows

Chairmen: Sir Nicholas Winterton and Hugh Bayley
Members: Mr Ian Austin, Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods, James Brokenshire, Mr Simon Burns, Mr Alan Campbell, Mr Ian Cawsey, Mr Vernon Coaker, Mrs Nadine Dorries, Jim Fitzpatrick, Dr Evan Harris, Paul Holmes, Ms Sally Keeble, Miss Julie Kirkbride, Mr David Ruffley, Lynda Waltho and Phil Wilson.

This Bill has had its second reading in the House of Commons. There is enormous resistance from academia, sex workers, disabled people, and the general public. In fact, a petition is being sent to Number 10, to delay any legislation on prostitution until after the election. See

In order to make your own (short) objections to this Bill

See guidance (but be warned they don’t want more than 1,000 words even though they state 3,000)

email address to send your views:

For further info on lobbying

It is always important to email your own MP to state your views.

For inspiration on stating your case, see the following link