Express & Star: Call for legal prostitution zone

By Alex Ross | News | Published:

A legal ‘prostitution zone’ should be introduced in a bid to tackle sex slavery in the West Midlands, an expert has said.

The slavery investigator, whose identity cannot be revealed, says it would help ensure the safety of women, while reducing the amount of ‘pop-up brothels’.

The idea has also been backed by the English Collective of Prostitutes, which say the zone would mean sex workers could report violence without fear of arrest.

Spokesman Laura Watson added it would mean an end to police action, which saw 800 cautions given to sex workers in two years.

West Midlands Police has not ruled out the scheme.

Speaking to the Express & Star, the ex police officer said: “It (legal prostitution zone) would be helpful in terms of the girls safety and looking at the issue from the victims’ point of view.

“It is not something that can be done overnight and would take a great deal of work.

“But it could provide a way for us to get on the girls’ side, provide security and tackle pop-up brothels.

“These girls often do not trust the police or authorities. They are often alone under control of someone else. If we were able connect with them – that can only be a good thing.”

He said the idea could be helpful, as currently it was difficult to find women being used in sex slavery.

As exposed in an Express & Star investigation earlier this year, they are brought in from eastern Europe and moved around the UK.

Living in a house together, their services are advertised on websites. While sometimes receiving a lot of money, the women can struggle to break free of the ring and are at risk of violence.

He said: “It is an underground operation happening right under our noses, in our streets and towns. It can be difficult to get the girls’ trust as from where they are from the authorities cannot be trusted.”

The zone was introduced in Holbeck, Leeds as part of a trial which has now been made permanent. It allows street sex workers to operate in a designated area during certain hours without fear of arrest.

West Midlands Police Detective Chief Inspector Sally Simpson, lead for rape and serious sexual offences, modern slavery and sex work, said: “Whilst this isn’t a scheme we are considering at the moment, we continually review our strategies and evolve our approach where we believe it can deliver an impact.

“Sex workers are vulnerable and we already work with our partners to provide safety messages and support those wishing to exit the sex work industry.

“Those found soliciting are referred to a project offering sexual health and educational advice around the risks of being a sex worker. Action is taken against those who may threaten their safety.”

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