Calls grow for reform of laws on prostitution

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The Independent Online

Plans to get prostitutes off the streets by allowing two or three to work in "mini-brothels" are still being considered by ministers almost a year after they were first floated by the Government.

The delays provoked anger in the Commons yesterday as MPs called for an overhaul of Britain's prostitution laws in the wake of the serial killings in Suffolk.

The Liberal Democrats claimed that urgently-needed reform to the antiquated legislation on the sex industry had fallen victim to the recent upheavals in the Home Office.

The department set out plans in January to let prostitutes work together for their own safety and promised tough action against kerb-crawlers.

It also said it would create a new penalty so magistrates can divert street prostitutes, 95 per cent of whom have a heroin or crack cocaine habit, towards help for their addiction instead of forcing them back into vice to pay fines.

The Home Office said it was still "consulting with stakeholders" and hoped to announce its conclusions shortly. But a spokeswoman said last night: "We haven't got a date."

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, demanded urgent action. "While the Government has seen fit to legislate endlessly in the areas of criminal justice and counter-terrorism, it has failed to put forward serious proposals for the reform of prostitution."

Fiona Mactaggart, the former Home Office Minister, who drew up the proposals, said: "It's shocking it takes a tragedy like this to realise this is really urgent. But the best we can do is to make sure we take the steps we have already identified. It's what we owe those poor women who have been murdered by this evil individual or individuals."

In the Commons, Tony Blair said policy on prostitution should not be examined until the Suffolk police investigation had been completed. But he said: "There may well be lessons that we have to learn from the terrible events of the past few weeks."

The Home Office this year abandoned plans, put forward by David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, for "licensed red light districts" where vice girls can operate legally.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "There's no real evidence we can find that formal managed areas can actually deliver in terms of improving the safety of those involved in prostitution." Allowing up to three prostitutes to work together was an "active consideration", he said.

A former prostitute said that a police crackdown had given the killer in Ipswich the licence to roam.

Dee, 28, said prostitutes used to work yards from each other. But she said efforts to disperse the women away from the red-light area had driven them apart.

The blogs

Posted by: Vickiinipswich

The girls are asking for help and advice and we are letting people know where we are. Stay safe but remember, and this is for the guys, we can't do this without you and this nutter can't ruin this, what we have is good. I love my job, meeting you guys, the sex and just the company. Keep supporting us girls and thanks for being there.

Posted by: Pennydibble

When is this pathetic government of ours going to see sense and legalise the service we all offer, a service that is needed or none of us would get any work? When are they going to realise that by doing so, not only will our safety be assured but they will also benefit from taxes we would then pay? It would be a win-win situation.

Posted by: Stripteasejada

Lets cut the crap here lassies, stop this non communication and start looking out for each other over Christmas, this maniac could be anywhere, he might even be 1 of our next clients. Be very, very careful the next few weeks or until this guy is caught.