Kerb-crawlers offered aversion therapy course

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The Independent Online
PERSISTENT KERB crawlers are to be given the chance to go to reform school instead of facing a court appearance.

The one-day course, which is the first of its kind in this country, has been developed by Leeds Metropolitan University in conjunction with West Yorkshire Police.

Although kerb crawling is not an arrestable offence, under the 1985 Sexual Offences Act police are able to report, caution and summons men who solicit from their vehicles.

Offenders will have their details forwarded to West Yorkshire Police's criminal justice support unit, who will offer them the choice between a court appearance and a day at the school. The course will cost pounds 110, comparable with a fine.

The school will run monthly classes and accommodate a maximum of 20 men, who will spend their day participating in a variety of workshops, focusing on health, gender, sociological and legislative issues.

Speakers will include the Rev George Moffitt, who will discuss prostitution and its effects on the community, and Irene Ivison, whose daughter, Fiona, was murdered by a client.

Mrs Ivison said: "I will tell them that she was a beautiful, bright girl with everything to live for - that we had tried desperately to keep her away from this pimp. She could have been their daughter, niece, sister."

Fiona Broadfoot, an ex-prostitute who spent 13 years working in Leeds and who now runs Exit, a self-help group for prostitutes, will also speak.

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said one of the key objectives of the scheme was to target first-time offenders and offer them an alternative which guarantees their anonymity.

The school was inspired by an American equivalent, which was founded in San Francisco three years ago by Norma Haling, a former prostitute.

Nicknamed "The John School", out of 1,400 men who have completed the course, only four have been re-arrested.

Julie Bindel, assistant director of the Centre for Violence, Abuse and Gender at the university, said the British version would be slightly different.

"The American project deals much more with sex addiction and education, whereas this one will be concentrating on social education."

West Yorkshire Police assistant chief constable, Norman Bettison, said: "Any scheme that promises the sort of returns that this one does from where its been tried elsewhere in the US is worth supporting."