Statement: Safety First Coalition condemns the Policing and Crime Bill

Members of the Safety First Coalition condemn prostitution measures in the Policing & Crime Bill.

Andrea Spyropoulos, Royal College Nursing:

“I can see nothing in these proposals that makes women or men safer.  It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to criminalise individuals who are consenting adults having sex.  TheRoyal College of Nursing is clear that we support decriminalisation on the basis of health.  On health alone it is not sensible to criminalise people because it changes their behaviour and puts them at risk. I believe the general public are agreed on the need for decriminalisation.”

Sue Conlan, lawyer:

“I think it is very important to realise there doesn’t have to be coercion for trafficking to be proved. I have represented women who were convicted of trafficking because they have immigrant women working for them even though in court it was proved that the women were working voluntarily.  I have also represented women caught up in raids who were alleged to be victims of trafficking.  They were sent to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre and were facing removal when I visited.  All strongly refuted that they were victims of trafficking. They described earning money to support families back home. That is the reality.”

Jean Johnson, Hampshire Federation of the Women’s Institute:

“I would like the government to look at the New Zealand system which has decriminalised prostitution.  The girls working there felt perfectly safe. They were working for themselves and they know their human rights, which is extremely important for all sex workers. InSouthampton I had the most heartbreaking experience that a mum of a daughter could ever have. I saw young girls on the streets in an area, where, if they screamed for any help, nobody would have heard them.”

Dr Helen Ward, Medical Academic from the public health department of Imperial College:

“Between one in 10 and one in 12 men in this country pay for sex at some point. This is a very widespread phenomenon that covers men of all classes, all ages and backgrounds. This obsession with prostitution and the belief that prostitution is violence against women completely ignores the voices of sex workers and clients. It is a refusal to recognise that the real issues of poverty and exploitation need to be addressed by social policies that tackle low wages, the temporary wage economy and the exclusion of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers and their rights to work.”

Father David Gilmore:

“My parish includes a large number of sex workers. My concern as the rector of Soho is that any legislation such as this will drive people underground.  Rather than remove prostitution from our land it will remove sex from the safety of a room with a receptionist. I don’t want to officiate at the funeral of any sex worker in my patch and have to say to a government “ I told you so – it wouldn’t work.” Nor do I want to see the indignity of people forced back onto the streets or sex workers living in fear of attack. I hope this legislation is radically examined and amended.”

Excerpts from Parliamentary briefings on 25 Nov 2008 and 3 Feb 2009