See article below from Berkshire Live.
Covid lockdown rules were broken to visit prostitutes in Berkshire
Social distancing guidance and a ban on mingling with strangers didn’t stop some people from leaving home to visit prostitutes
Despite much of last year being spent under lockdown with strict guidelines in place to limit the spread of Covid-19, Thames Valley Police still recorded 15 offences related to prostitution in Berkshire – only four fewer than in 2019.
That includes eight offences of soliciting for the purposes of prostitution and seven of exploitation of prostitution
The soliciting offences could be sex workers loitering on street corners, or people trying to pick up a prostitute, for example by “kerb-crawling”.
Exploitation could include using force, threats, deception or other forms of coercion to force someone into having sex.
But according to the English Collective of Prostitutes, it could also mean the offence of “keeping a brothel”, which it says could include two women working together for safety.
Another six – all of soliciting – took place between October and December.
By then, after restrictions were relaxed over summer, Covid-19 infection rates soared once more as the second wave of the virus surged across the nation.
Mask-wearing had become a part of everyday life and restrictions had been reintroduced, with England entering a new three-tier lockdown system.
Berkshire was placed in Tier 3, which faced the toughest restrictions, but was then moved up into a new Tier 4.
In Berkshire, Reading appears to be the hotspot for prostitution offences. Nine offences were recorded last year in Reading, plus another three in Oxford and one each in Bracknell Forest, Slough and South Oxfordshire.
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There were a total of 556 offences last year, down from 659 in 2019. Across all England and Wales, the figures show that fears over Covid-19, coupled with lockdown restrictions, saw prostitution offences fall by 16% in 2020 compared to the previous year.
Some 43 offences of soliciting and 50 of exploiting prostitution took place during the first lockdown between April and June, a total of 93.
Figures then more than doubled as restrictions were eased over summer, with a total of 195 prostitution-related offences recorded between July and September – 77 of exploitation and 118 of soliciting.
But, even as infection rates began to climb again and restrictions were reintroduced, figures remained high between October and December.
During that period a total of 154 offences were committed, with 92 people were caught soliciting for the purposes of prostitution, and 62 investigated for exploitation of prostitution.
Last year, more offences were recorded in Nottingham than any other city or town in the country, a total of 57.
Soliciting for the purpose of prostitution can be punished by a maximum fine of up to £1,000, if the offender has a previous conviction, or £500 for a first offence.