Oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee on the Policing and Crime Bill
12 noon 27 January 2009.
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairmen: Hugh Bayley, Sir Nicholas Winterton
Austin, Mr. Ian (Dudley, North)
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta (City of Durham) (Lab)
Brokenshire, James (Hornchurch) (Con)
Burns, Mr. Simon (West Chelmsford) (Con)
Campbell, Mr. Alan (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Cawsey, Mr. Ian (Brigg and Goole) (Lab)
Coaker, Mr. Vernon (Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing)
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con)
Fitzpatrick, Jim (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD)
Holmes, Paul (Chesterfield) (LD)
Keeble, Ms Sally (Northampton, North) (Lab)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie (Bromsgrove) (Con)
Ruffley, Mr. David (Bury St. Edmunds) (Con)
Waltho, Lynda (Stourbridge) (Lab)
Wilson, Phil (Sedgefield) (Lab)
Chris Shaw, Andrew Kennon, Committee Clerks
The Chairman: I welcome the second group of witnesses to come before us this morning. I welcome Denise Marshall, the chief executive of the Eaves POPPY project, Frances Brodrick, assistant chief executive of the Eaves POPPY project, Niki Adams, the spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes, Hilary Kinnell, co-vice chair of the safety, violence and policing group from the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, Kathy Evans, the project policy director of the Children’s Society and Sandrine LevÃªque, the campaigns manager of Object. To assist everybody, perhaps each person will give their name and explain who they are.
Sandrine LevÃªque: My name is Sandrine LevÃªque and I will speak on behalf of Object and the Fawcett Society.
Kathy Evans: I am Kathy Evans, the policy director for the Children’s Society and a member of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice.
Hilary Kinnell: I am Hilary Kinnell and I represent the UK Network of Sex Work Projects.
Niki Adams: My name is Niki Adams and I am from the English Collective of Prostitutes, which co-ordinates the Safety First coalition.
Frances Brodrick: I am Frances Brodrick from Eaves and the POPPY project. We work with women who have been trafficked into the UK.
Denise Marshall: I am Denise Marshall, the chief executive of the Eaves POPPY project.
The Chairman: Thank you. I will go to Her Majesty’s official Opposition to put the first question.
Mr. Ruffley: Ms Adams, to give a scale of the problem, could you estimate how many prostitutes in the country are controlled for gain—that is a term used in the Bill?
Niki Adams: You have hit on the first big problem with the legislation. “Controlled for gain” has a wide definition. People working in the sex industry are no more likely to be controlled for gain than any other worker in the UK. The definition that Fiona Mactaggart said the Government would use, in the Second Reading debate, was that they would require compulsion; but you can see from the definition of “controlling” in the Bill, plus the definition used in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, that it in fact would include any woman working in any situation where there was a work rota; workmates could be criminalised under it.
We have seen prosecutions of women; we are actually working with a woman at the moment whose case is coming to court. She is the mother of four young children, who was working with another woman in premises, and is being prosecuted for controlling. We have, here, some women from Soho who work in flats with maids. They were raided in December and threatened by the police with being prosecuted for controlling, when they are the first line of defence for working women against violent attacks and exploitation. I hope that you will give them an opportunity to speak and will hear evidence from them.
The Chairman: I am afraid only those who have been asked to come as formal witnesses can address the Committee. I have no doubt that you will be able to speak on behalf of those for whom you have just replied. I am sorry; those who are not registered with us as official witnesses cannot give evidence.
Mr. Ruffley: You are confirming that the definition is very wide, and can catch a large number of people.
Niki Adams: Yes, and already it is being used in that way, so what Fiona Mactaggart said in the Second Reading debate in fact is not true; we have already seen prosecutions, and prosecutions for controlling under the 2003 Act have actually gone up significantly since 2003 when the definition was changed. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has enabled the police to claim 25 per cent. of the money, assets and other resources collected at the time of arrest and after prosecution, and we think the Act is a big motivation for the increase in raids and prosecutions in this area.
The Chairman: I can help Niki Adams. I have just given advice on what is permitted at this Committee sitting, but there is nothing to prevent your colleagues from submitting written evidence to the Committee. Such evidence, as long as it is acceptable, not in offensive language and is appropriate to the Bill, will be circulated. If your colleagues would like to give evidence they can, but, sadly, it has to be in writing.
Mr. Ruffley: On how the clauses might operate in practice, it has been suggested to some members of the Committee that it would not be easy to enforce them, because quite a lot of women who were being forced into this industry would not give evidence, to put it bluntly, against a pimp or someone who was controllingthem. They would be scared of being brutalised or attacked if they gave evidence to the police or the Crown Prosecution Service. From what you are saying, that does not seem to be so much of an issue. Enforcement is happening, from what you just said.
Niki Adams: Yes, that is very much the case, because it is being used against people who are involved in consensual sex. There is not any force and coercion present, but those are the people who are primarily being prosecuted under both the controlling legislation and also, unfortunately, under the trafficking legislation, which, in the UK, also does not require force and coercion to be proved. A woman in our network who is from Brazil and who has been here for 25 years running premises that everyone accepted were a safe and good environment for women to work in was prosecuted for trafficking and sentenced to three years in prison. She nearly lost custody of her young son, and is now facing deportation. She had her life savings, her house, her car and all her possessions confiscated. The law is being used in that way to prosecute people who are involved in consenting sex.
The figures that have been used to justify the proposals—the figures on trafficking—are false. They have been discredited in many academic studies including on a recent radio 4 programme, where they showed that the figure that was widely being used—that 80 per cent. of women working in the sex industry in the UK are trafficked—actually came from POPPY project research that found that 80 per cent. of women in the sex industry are immigrant women. There is a very big difference between being foreign and being forced, which is what the programme concluded.
Mr. Ruffley: But paying for sexual services from a person who is controlled for gain will be an offence. May I just give you this scenario? If a man understands that seeking and using the services of a woman who has been trafficked is a strict liability offence and he will be committing an offence, in practice, if he knows the law, he might say to the woman, “Have you been trafficked or are you controlled for gain?” Let us just imagine that scenario. It seems that there is no incentive whatsoever for the woman concerned to answer that question truthfully because if the man asks the question, she will understand that he knows the law. If she says, “Yes, I have been trafficked,” the first thing the man will do in all likelihood is say, “Okay, I’m not going to commit an offence; I’m going out the door.” The woman will then lose the money.
It seems almost impossible to conceive of a sex worker—a female—answering that question truthfully because the minute she does so she loses business and, if she has already been brutalised, she will face heaven knows what consequences for losing trade and money. What are the chances of women answering that question truthfully?
Niki Adams: The problem is that the figures on how many women are trafficked are distorted. Where women have been trafficked or are facing rape, violence or other kinds of coercion, the question is what will best help them escape from that situation and get the help that they need. Criminalising them and their clients is certainly not going to help. What does help, as has been shown in New Zealand, is decriminalisation, which has enabled women to come forward, report violence and get help in many different areas. The New Zealand
experience has not been looked at properly by this Government and, in fact, was reported falsely in the debate on 19 January, when it was said that what New Zealand has done was legalisation, which is not true. Fiona Mactaggart claimed that there had been an increase in the number of people working in the sex industry. In fact, a substantial and thorough recent Government review found no increase in the number of women in prostitution. They found that women were more able to come forward to get help and that conditions were less exploitative in the brothels in which women worked.
In response to your question, the crucial issue is what most helps women to escape from violent and exploitative situations. The legislation will do nothing to help that, and will actually force prostitution further underground and make it harder for women to be public and get help.
The Chairman: Mr. Ruffley, I think that Niki Adams mentioned the POPPY project in one of her answers relating to statistics. Do Frances Brodrick or Denise Marshall want to come in on the question?
Mr. Ruffley: Sir Nicholas, you have asked my question for me. If I could ask for a response to those points?
Denise Marshall: I think that Niki Adams said that the Radio 4 programme claimed that 80 per cent. were foreign nationals and were therefore trafficked. Unfortunately, we cannot control the media. What we said in our report “Sex in the City” was that 80 per cent. of the women were foreign nationals and that we believed a significant proportion of them were trafficked. We did not say that they were all trafficked; we have not claimed that. We do not know the figures. We were able to show that around 80 per cent. in off-street sex commercial establishments were foreign national women, but we did not claim that they were all trafficked.
Niki Adams: The problem has been that, for example, in relation to Soho, which is one of the areas where the sex industry is less underground and where it is easier to see what is going on, even the police said for many years that 80 per cent. of women there were being trafficked. One of the women here today works in Soho. She is from Hungary. Her father died when she was younger and she is here supporting her son and her family back home. That is the most common average situation of women working in the sex industry. Some 70 per cent. are mothers who have gone into prostitution to support their families and other people in the community. We are in an economic recession, and more women will be forced into prostitution to survive. The legislation will do nothing to help women get safe working conditions or survive in that way. What it will do is actually force prostitution underground and make it worse—more dangerous.
Mr. Ruffley: This is my final question. May I ask the representatives of the POPPY project whether they think that the clauses as drafted—predominantly those relating to the strict liability on men—are going to choke off demand and help to solve the problem through the straightforward criminalisation of the punter, so to speak? Do you think that that is going to work?
Denise Marshall: We think that the Bill does not go far enough. We think that women should be decriminalised and do not understand why that is not part of the Bill. But, yes, we do think that men should be criminalised.
Mr. Ruffley: Do you think that the proposal will drive down the number of men seeking sexual services and paying for them?
Frances Brodrick: Absolutely. We think that it will have the really big effect of making men think about their responsibility for funding the sex industry and the growth of that industry. We also think that it will also make them examine their responsibility for the further exploitation of women who have been controlled for gain.
Denise Marshall: Interestingly, in the time we have run the POPPY project, we have had 22 referrals from punters—from those buying sex from trafficked women. They made the referrals because the women were in an obvious physical and emotional state of distress. That sounds good on the surface until you realise that all the 22 men had sex with the trafficked woman before they phoned us. These are trafficked women whom we have taken into our projects and whom have given evidence to us in statements. All those men, knowing the women were trafficked, had sex before phoning us to help the women to get out of their situation.
The Chairman: Before I call Mrs. Nadine Dorries to put a question, I know that Hilary Kinnell would like to add something to the evidence that has been given.
Hilary Kinnell: The first question Mr. Ruffley asked was about the proportions of women who are controlled for gain. The UK Network of Sex Work Projects has 63 member organisations that work directly with sex workers. A survey of the client group of projects affiliated to the network showed that, in 2007-08, more than 6,500 indoor female sex workers were in touch with projects in our network. The majority of them are in premises where there is more than one person—either more than one sex worker, or a sex worker and a receptionist—because those are the indoor scenarios that are easiest for social worker-types of whatever description to access. There is much less contact with independents who work alone or through escort agencies.
That is the basis of our expertise, and if you have the network’s submission in front of you, you will see that we agree with almost everything that Niki Adams has said about the clauses on controlling for gain, which relate to not only the criminalisation of clients, but the closure of indoor premises.
The only thing I would point out on the question of statistics is that the POPPY project’s survey was of indoor sex workers in London. The 80 per cent. of foreign women at the premises that they surveyed applies to the London area, not to the rest of the country. It needs to be made absolutely clear that everywhere in the country, street sex workers are nearly all British women. Outside the London area, large numbers of women working at indoor premises are British. As Niki has explained, over the past few years a number of premises that have never caused any trouble, where the women working there have reported their own concerns about trafficking and coercion to the police, have been raided on the pretext that there is evidence of trafficked women working there. None have been found, but the people who have been found have been prosecuted. That is the way things are working at the moment. We have no confidence that the provisions of the Bill will make matters any better; rather, we are convinced that they will make matters worse.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mrs. Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): My question is to Niki Adams and relates to clause 20, which is the closure orders clause. Taking Ipswich into account, and given that although many sex workers work indoors, there are also those who are out on the street, what impact do you think the closure orders will have on the safety and vulnerability of sex workers? Will they make the position of neighbourhoods and residents any better or worse? Will they make the lot of the sex workers any better or worse?
Niki Adams: It will have a very negative impact on women working in the sex industry. Women will be forced out of premises. Many women will not have the option of giving up prostitution and will therefore end up on the streets. Nuisance has been raised as a problem in relation to women working on the streets. We feel that that is no justification for criminalising women working on the streets. The law should be abolished to allow women to work together from premises, which, in New Zealand, has been shown to help women move off the streets and inside. We know that it is ten times safer for women to work inside than out on the street.
Existing legislation has been implemented against premises where the allegation is that drug use is taking place. Release has described that legislation being used in a very insidious fashion. It said that the evidence used to close down premises is often very tenuous, in that magistrates rarely refuse police applications for an order for closure and the police have been able to present hearsay evidence. No actual evidence has to be produced to get a closure order, and like antisocial behaviour orders, that has led to enormous injustice. People are accused and they do not have the opportunity to confront their accuser or to counter the evidence that has been produced. In the same way as with antisocial behaviour orders, the order starts off as a civil offence, but the breach of the order is treated as a criminal offence. In this case, with the closure orders, people end up with six months in prison. The idea that, under the Bill, women will be forced out on to the street and may face imprisonment of up to six months is a dangerous proposal.
The impact of criminal records on women lasts their whole lives. A woman whom I was hoping that you would be able to hear from today, from our network out of London, has worked on the streets for many years. At quite an early age, she got a criminal record, which has now prevented her from being able to work in many other areas. She initially went into prostitution to support her disabled daughter. She wants to work with children. She is very involved in her community and was offered a job by her community centre, but she had to turn down because she knew that as soon as she was investigated, it would come up that she had a record for prostitution. Even if that did not prevent her getting the job, she did not want everybody in her community to know that that was the situation.
Such a thing has happened over many years to many thousands of women, and it has institutionalised women in prostitution. This measure and any other measure that increases criminalisation will continue to wreck women’s lives and prevent them from getting out of prostitution.
Mrs. Dorries: We know that there are two groups: those who take the intelligent and informed decision that they want to sex workers; and those who end up there as a result of need, trafficking or whatever. On the drug issue—representatives of the POPPY project might want to answer this—a huge number, although I do not know the percentage, of sex workers are also involved in the drug industry. That is why raids have been made on the various indoor premises that you have spoken about. Is there an effective way in which the law could be decoupled so that drug offences could be prosecuted without closing down the premises?
Niki Adams: Women who are using drugs need the same help as all drug users. In New Zealand, as a result of the change in the law, there was a big shift in how women who use drugs were treated. They were treated as patients, not criminals, which had a big impact on enabling women to get off drugs. There is a problem with the rehabilitation services in this country. We have worked with women who have tried to get into rehab and have been prevented from doing so over and over again for many months. The Bill includes a measure on compulsory rehabilitation, which I know you have spoken against, but there is no evidence that compulsion works, and all that will happen due to that measure is that women will end up in an endless cycle of breaching orders. It is not an alternative to a fine, because as soon as you breach your order, you go back to court and face a fine and possible criminalisation, as you would have before. It is really a punitive measure that will increase criminalisation and imprisonment.
Mrs. Dorries: The provision will ask a sex worker to attend three meetings. Do you think that the compulsory aspect will deter sex workers? If so, how should help be given to a sex worker who wants to move out of the industry?
Niki Adams: I think that it will deter women. The meetings will be largely useless because resources are not being provided. To get out of prostitution, women need resources to address their particular economic needs. Drug use might be involved, in which case they need rehabilitation services to be provided when they are ready and able to take up those services. Much of our day-to-day work is about pressing for resources, such as housing and benefits, to help women get out of prostitution, if they want to.
In the aftermath of the Ipswich murders, for a very short period, there was a determination to try to find ways of getting women out of prostitution. Women were given a small amount of money each week, which dealt with their daily needs. Women were prioritised for housing and assisted through the labyrinth of the benefits system to ensure that they had an income. Child care was provided, which had an impact. Those services were then withdrawn and there was a reversion to the age-old clampdown on clients. That meant that prostitution was forced underground, and there was no decrease in the number of women working—they were simply displaced or made invisible. So, there have been times when people have looked at what women need to get out of prostitution and things have worked. Fundamentally, it comes down to resources, not compulsion or a criminal record, which would mean that even if you were able to leave, your chances of getting another job and finding another way of supporting yourself would be destroyed.
The Chairman: Denise Marshall would like to come in. May I say to Kathy Evans and Sandrine LevÃªque that if you have any comments on what is being said, please catch my eye and I will be delighted to invite you to address the Committee?
Denise Marshall: One thing that I wanted to agree with was that there is an appalling lack of resources for women in London if they wish to get on to any rehabilitation programme and get off drugs. There are two residential services, at most, for women and children across London. The resources are simply not there for housing or any other services. I do not think that you can do one without the other: you cannot not provide exits for women.
If you decriminalise women, you will enable them to work in projects—with children and young women at risk of entering prostitution—but they are not currently able to do so as they have a record because they were working as prostitutes. I think that you should be decriminalising. However, I do not think that sustaining women in prostitution is the answer. The criminalisation of men will go someway towards ensuring that they take responsibility.
Sandrine LevÃªque: Just to pick up on the point about making punters think twice and take more responsibility for their actions, due to the nature of what Object does, we are approached regularly by women who have been involved in prostitution—on the street, in brothels or as escorts—and say that it is extremely hard for their voices to be heard. The not-so-nice reality of being in prostitution is often ignored by the media. You have this Belle de Jour stereotype of what it is to be in prostitution. Obviously, as we are hearing today, that does not reflect the reality. One woman who contacted us last week got involved in prostitution at the age of 13. She had left her home and had been on the streets of Coventry from that age. She welcomes this move because it will make people think twice before they pay someone for sex. Even if there is consent, you do not know the routes into that situation. We wholeheartedly welcome measures to make people think twice in that respect. I wanted to say that on behalf of those women who contacted us.
Dr. Harris: May I confirm first that none of the witnesses supports the provisions in law and in this Bill that criminalise women in prostitution? Is there anyone who supports that? No. Turning to Ms Marshall first, do you think that men who knowingly have sex with women who are trafficked and forced into prostitution are committing rape? Did you report the 22 men who had sex with trafficked women who you believed, rightly or wrongly, knew that they were trafficked and forced into sex when they came to you with the referral? Did you report them to the police for rape?
Frances Brodrick: They did not disclose their identities so we were unable to. We take referrals from the general public and as part of encouraging referrals we often allow people to give anonymous referrals.
Dr. Harris: So to encourage referrals you allow anonymous referrals. I can understand why. Is that because you think that if people who refer feel that they will be prosecuted they are less likely or not likely to refer?
Denise Marshall: I think that if they thought they would be prosecuted they would be even less likely to refer. However, they have made telephone referrals and made anonymous referrals to give us the addresses of premises. We then pass that information on to the police, but unfortunately that is a telephone call and one punter and so we are not able to track those men.
Dr. Harris: So those men, if I understand this correctly and unless there is overlap, are responsible for helping you to save 22 women from mass rape on a daily basis?
Denise Marshall: Yes.
Dr. Harris: So on the basis of 10 times a day and then for another month, hundreds of rapes are prevented by each of those men coming forward. Do you think we should do more to encourage more men to come forward, whether or not they have had sex with these women, in order to help you and the authorities to prevent rape on this scale?
Denise Marshall: I am not sure how to encourage them. In the latter part of last year we conducted face-to-face interviews with 104 customers of commercial sex premises. Many of the men were aware that the women they had sex with were potentially trafficked or potentially unwilling. In the time that we have been open we have had only 22 referrals. I do not know how one would get them to be more willing to come forward.
Dr. Harris: Is there any evidence from abroad that anyone is aware of as to how they manage to increase the number of referrals from men? Do they use the Bill’s approach of trying to deter men through criminalisation, or do they use another technique?
Hilary Kinnell: I believe that in some countries a hotline has been set up for clients who have concerns about the conditions under which women are working. Our network and the International Union of Sex Workers have argued for such a line. My area is violence against and murder of sex workers. In practically every case where a sex worker is murdered, the first group of people whom the police want to come forward are the sex worker’s clients. In a number of cases successful investigations have been dependent on clients coming forward as witnesses. There have also been unsuccessful cases where crucial clients—who are not suspected of the murder—have been seen in the area but have not come forward. Those cases have been in areas with heavy anti-kerb crawling operations, where the local press and sometimes local politicians and police have done their best to demonise clients and paint them all as rapists and scum. My work on violence against sex workers shows clearly that they are much more at risk from people who do not pay than from people who do.
Dr. Harris: Ms Evans, you are from the Children’s Society. I think in the briefing that you and your coalition sent on Second Reading that you wanted to see decriminalisation of under-18-year-olds. You said—and I would be grateful if you could confirm it for the record—that you thought that the Government had planned to do that at some point earlier. Do you know why that has not happened in this Bill?
Kathy Evans: The turnaround in public policy to view the involvement of any young person under 18 in prostitution as being the victim of abuse rather than committing an offence, started in 2000 with the guidance on safeguarding children involved in prostitution. The Government’s policy has been clear and welcomed by the children’s sector in terms of viewing the child in need of support and at risk of significant harm under the Children Act. What remains is to remove the legislation that currently would still criminalise them for various offences related to involvement in prostitution, of loitering and soliciting. Our particular concern is that that continues to be an anomaly. A raft of offences has been created for any adult, male or female, who is in any way involved in the sexual exploitation of children, whether as a customer or involved in the chain of offences. At the moment it also includes in law the child who is abused through that involvement. We have heard a lot about how the industry is pushed underground and is therefore more invisible, adding to the vulnerability of women and boys under the age of 18 who are sexually exploited. It is already underground and it is difficult for those children to feel they can come forward. They are often told and reminded that they are doing something illegal; that is one of the tools with which they can be coerced. It is the only case where a child who has been abused by someone else is considered to be doing something wrong themselves. We need to see that legislation repealed.
Dr. Harris: My question was, why has it not been repealed?
Kathy Evans: Attitudes are starting to change. There has recently been consultation on the Government’s intended revised updated guidance on safeguarding children involved in prostitution. A straightforward question was asked whether responding organisations had views about decriminalisation. My understanding is that a high proportion said that they did and the Government are currently compiling the analysis of those views. So the Government have said they are open to the case for final legal repeal of those offences. In the past they have been concerned that to repeal the law would send a message that it was all right, but that is not our experience in any other form of abuse or exploitation of children. That is the anomaly that we want to undo.
Dr. Harris: One of the issues for me is whether the intentions of this legislation will be effective in making women safe. I think we all share that objective. I understand that it has been subject, as far as possible, to academic inquiry. I shall start with the POPPY project witnesses. What academic evidence in the Home Office review led them to believe that they would be safe in welcoming the review’s proposals for the new offence of controlling for gain, and the closure orders in respect of the safety and health of women—usually women; vulnerable women—in the sex industry?
Frances Brodrick: We work with large numbers of women who have been exploited in the worst possible ways, controlled and prostituted by their traffickers. They come to us and tell us about the types of exploitation and abuse they have suffered at the hands of their punters. Sometimes, men who buy sex do not know, for various different reasons, that they are buying sex off a woman who is being controlled, but sometimes they do, and it gives them an enormous amount of power over women. We have heard horrific stories about how women have been exploited and abused, and they are powerless to do anything about it. The measure not only says very clearly to punters that they need to take responsibility for the sex trade and for buying sex off women, but provides for legislation and enables women to come forward to testify against punters.
Dr. Harris: I understand that, but there may be alternatives that do it better. My question is, what is the academic evidence—either from the Home Office review or elsewhere, if it is not there—that underpins your view that the legislation will be the best way to improve the situation generally, and particularly for your clients?
Denise Marshall: In terms of academics, the situation is quite difficult, because one academic will say that prostitution is empowering and the best way to move it forward is to legalise it, but another academic will tell you that 85 per cent. of women in prostitution are there against their will. So those on each side of the fence use whichever academic research suits them best.
Dr. Harris: I accept that, but the separate question about what improves the safety and emotional and physical health of women is more amenable to comparative study than the more political question about whether it is generally exploitative or empowering. I absolutely understand that different academics have different views.
Denise Marshall: Unfortunately, that impacts on the daily life of women with whom we work. I have a quote from a POPPY service user. We talked to her about prostitution, and she said, “Let’s say if I don’t feed you, you’re going to die. If men don’t pay for this, prostitution will die.” And she will not be in the situation. There is no demand; there is no supply, and her situation will not occur. You have to have the resources. There is no point in doing this if you do not have the resources to help women get out, or the resources for trafficked women. It is quite clear to me that this is the start of ending prostitution, which means violence against women.
Dr. Harris: I accept that that is your view, but I am interested in the academic evidence, so I shall ask Hilary: are some of your projects NHS funded?
Hilary Kinnell: Many of them, yes.
Dr. Harris: Do you have a view on the evidence base for this policy? That is my last question.
Hilary Kinnell: We are dismayed by the lack of evidence that the demand review appears to have consulted. The Home Office commissioned a literature review of academic work on demand, and we were told that it would inform the demand review, but the literature review has not yet been published. My briefing is a little sketchy on the issue, but the references in the demand review are to Home Office documents and to the POPPY project’s “Big Brothel” report. I would say that the strongest evidence around the relationship between safety and the legislation surrounding the sex industry is that of over 100 sex workers who have been killed since 1990, 84 per cent were street workers, whereas the proportions of street workers versus off-street workers in the industry are probably the other way round—80 per cent. indoor and 20 per cent street. That vulnerability of street workers does not seem to be falling, even though the numbers of actual street workers are falling, which takes us back to the very inadequate evidence base on which this whole subject is being discussed.
An earlier question was about the extent of drug use. We are frequently told that the vast majority of sex workers are dependent on class A drugs, which is true as far as street work is concerned, but with reservations—when you are running a project that provides a drug service you are likely to see sex workers who are drug users, so the level may not be as high as is sometimes thought. Certainly, I have been working with sex workers for more than 20 years and it is my experience that the extent of drug use among street women has gone up a lot in the last 10 years. As far as indoor work is concerned, there is no such connection, and it is entirely false and misleading to say so.
There is no evidence that says that the vast majority of women involved in the sex industry were coerced into it or coerced at an early age, or came into it at an early age. There is none whatsoever. There are small projects that have been based on, say, women who became involved in the sex industry under the age of 18, which have remarkably shown a very high percentage who came into the industry under the age of 18. But they are small, localised studies and they cannot be generalised to the whole population of sex workers in the country.
Niki Adams: Just on the figures, I think that Hilary has indicated how any evidence that the Government have produced to back up the legislation has actually been discredited or is completely false. They are ignoring evidence that would actually prove the opposite. The New Zealand experience is that there has been an increase in the number of women coming forward to report violence. I think when you look at what measures are needed to make women safer in prostitution they are very similar to—not disconnected completely from—whatever women generally need to be safe from rape and other violence. The conviction rate, for all women, of reported rapes is an appalling 6 per cent. and there is evidence to show what could be done to improve that conviction rate: investigate offences thoroughly; improve women’s ability to come forward and report rape; deal with the way that women face character assassination in court. Those are the measures that should be addressed by the Government if they are serious about dealing with women’s safety.
I wanted to comment on what the POPPY project said about the idea of getting rid of prostitution. We would like to get rid of prostitution, but we know that it cannot be done until we have abolished women’s poverty and dealt with the exploitative situations for women working in every other industry, when women’s wages are so low. Women’s average wage at this moment in time ranges between £5 and £11 an hour. If you are a mother you get less money; if you are an immigrant woman you get less money. Until those economic conditions are dealt with and women can support their families in other jobs, women will be forced into prostitution.
The Chairman: Dr. Harris, may I move on? Three other members of the Committee want to put questions.
Dr. Harris: Yes.
Miss Kirkbride: Niki and Hilary, if the provisions go through as the Government intend, in the Bill, whatever their desire to improve the lot of women, what do you think the impact will be in reality?
Hilary Kinnell: I think that the impact will be almost entirely detrimental. The only element of them that the UK network would support is removal of the term “common prostitute” from the statute book, which is an entirely symbolic move. The provisions relating to street work rehearse all the things that we have already had, such as targeting the clients and enforced reform of sex workers.
About 10 years ago, street sex workers started to be given ASBOs. We were told that that provided an opportunity to engage, provide services, address offending behaviour and all the rest of it. As has been said by others—and remarkably by both Niki and the representatives of the POPPY project—resources are needed. There is no provision for any resources to address those issues.
As far as indoor work is concerned, particularly the orders for closure of brothels or premises in which it is suspected that somebody may be controlled for gain, the Bill is utterly disastrous. It will destabilise indoor working situations for a vast number of sex workers—both men and women. Looking at the fine detail and the accompanying schedule, the Home Secretary will be able to give the police the power to raid premises under almost any circumstances that he or she likes.
Control for gain is a terribly indistinct definition, which applies both to the premises and to paying for the services of somebody who is controlled for gain. We fear that the police will be required to target such a wide range of individual clients and premises that places in which there is abuse, exploitation and coercion and clients who are violent and destructive will simply be lost in the mass. In my experience, police officers who are tasked with investigating serious crimes against sex workers do their damnedest to carry out such work, and they are inhibited all the time by the law itself because it inhibits people from coming forward to give evidence. It also makes sex workers more vulnerable in the first place. I—and also the network—cannot see how these provisions will do anything to improve any of those things.
The Chairman: Sandrine LevÃªque, would you like to comment? I gather that you hold a slightly different view from the one that has just been expressed.
Sandrine LevÃªque: Yes, although I should also like to talk about clause 25 if there is time.
The Chairman: Do so very quickly. I know that Mr. Brokenshire wishes to put a question. Should he put the question, and then you make a comment?
Miss Kirkbride: May we finish that point? The impact of the legislation is possibly the most worrying thing.
The Chairman: We have seven minutes. I am concerned.
Niki Adams: I will be quick. Concretely, it will force women out of premises on to the streets, where it is more dangerous. Women will be forced to work alone. That is already happening in Soho, where receptionists are being threatened with controlling charges. The change in soliciting for the purposes of prostitution will increase arrests. It makes it easier for the police to arrest women on the street because in order to prove persistence, they have only to prove that it took place a couple of times over a period of three months, which is very different from what happens at the moment.
Imprisonment will increase because of the closure orders, the imprisonment aspect of the compulsory rehabilitation, the number of arrests of women on the street and the controlling convictions. It will prevent women from coming forward. When they criminalised clients in Scotland, attacks against sex workers really soared. It will prevent women getting out of prostitution because they will have a criminal record, it will institutionalise women in prostitution, and it will divert prosecutions.
Hilary’s point is very important. She says that it will divert police time and resources away from prosecuting rape and other violence to prosecuting consenting sex.As a result, the prosecutions will increase because there is the big motivation of profiteering by the police, the CPS, the Home Office and the Inland Revenue, which all get a cut of the earnings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The Chairman: I will call James Brokenshire to speak next, and then Sandrine LevÃªque will probably want to comment.
James Brokenshire: I want to move on to clause 25 and the Bill’s proposed changes to the regulation of lap-dancing and sex-encounter venues. I understand that you, Ms LevÃªque, do not believe that the provisions go far enough; perhaps you would explain why.
Sandrine LevÃªque: We welcome the commitment behind the reforms. There is a clear consensus that the law needs to be changed, and for that reason it is important that the reforms are as robust as possible. We are concerned that the reforms are undermined by two key flaws. First, the clause is optional, which will create a postcode lottery in which local people in some areas will be empowered to have a say in licensing processes and to bring up gender equality in those processes, while those in other areas will not. That sends out a mixed message on the gender equality duty. On the one hand, all local authorities are required to promote gender equality in everything they do, but on the other, a major piece of legislation, the Licensing Act 2003, prevents them from doing that when it comes to licensing. We have a real opportunity here to put that right and strengthen the gender equality duty by allowing all local authorities to license lap-dancing clubs as sex-encounter venues and make that universal.
Secondly, the reforms currently exempt premises where lap dancing happens less than once a month, which creates a major loophole for venues that hold monthly events of that kind and are catered for by a growing number of agencies. They also reinforce a current loophole relating to temporary event notices, which are used by many pubs and bars to obtain 12 permits a year for stripping or lap-dancing events. Those permits can only be opposed by a police authority on the grounds of crime and disorder. They cannot be opposed by a council or anyone wishing to have their say. There will always be a loophole that will not be touched by these reforms.
There is massive public support for the reforms from a broad coalition, including women’s organisations, councils, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Local Government Association—you know who supports this. It is therefore important that they deliver on social justice and equality, and to do that, the reforms need to be universal and ensure that all sex-encounter activities are regulated, regardless of how frequently those activities are happening.
James Brokenshire: I have one very quick question for Ms Evans on the issue of the foreign orders for sex offenders, particularly the foreign travel orders. What impact will changing the age from 16 to 18 have, why is that important in your view, and do you believe that that increase to five years is appropriate?
The Chairman: A brief answer, please.
Kathy Evans: We think that it is important that all legislation relating to sex offences and children involved in sex offending should be consistent with the reforms that have been introduced, which essentially define exploitative offences against children so that they apply to those up to the age of 18, and children below the age of 18 should not be penalised for that involvement.
Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): I would like to ask the panel two direct questions. What responsibility do men have when buying sex, and how would you ensure that they accept that responsibility?
Niki Adams: If men are involved in consenting sex, it should not be the business of the law.
Frances Brodrick: Men who buy sex are fuelling the sex trade and human trafficking. I think that it is one of the most heinous crimes that exist and we need to do something to stop it.
Hilary Kinnell: My view is that men who pay for sex are very unlikely to be violent towards sex workers. There are a small proportion who are and who seem to believe that paying for sex somehow entitles them to be violent and abusive, but the vast majority of violence and abuse comes from people who are not paying or refuse to pay. A lot of violence comes from people who think that, because someone has been paid by others, they are entitled to attack them. The idea that paying for sex is intrinsically abusive has completely blinded people who care very much about the welfare of women to the real abuse that is going on and to understanding why that happens and under what circumstances. There are perfectly straightforward measures that can be taken to prevent it happening.
The Chairman: I have to bring the sitting to an end as the time allotted for the questions has now ended. I thank our witnesses for the frank, open and full way in which they answered the questions put to them. It has been very valuable evidence for the Committee.