How about listening to sex workers?

These letters appeared in the 18 February edition of The Independent

Wednesday 17 February 2016 18:53 GMT
The majority of sex workers oppose the criminalisation of clients.
The majority of sex workers oppose the criminalisation of clients. (Getty Images)

As the authors of the survey recently cited exploring the criminalisation of the purchase of sex (“Prostitutes fear that criminalising clients would reduce safety”, 17 February) we were deeply disappointed that your editorial of 17 February fundamentally misrepresents the debate, portraying an ideological and moralistic view of sex work rather than one that reflects evidence, including the evidence published in this paper.

After an initial acknowledgement of the need to “heed their warning” about the safety implications of criminalising clients, the views of sex workers and expert practitioners seem to be dismissed in favour of a view of sex work that isn’t founded in reality.

Your editorial asserts that it’s people traffickers and abusers who should be targeted. Well guess what? Sex workers and specialist practitioners want police resources to target traffickers, abusers and violent offenders too.

Your suggestion that we criminalise clients runs counter to your desire to reduce harm. The evidence is clear that criminalising clients will only make adults engaging in consensual sex work vulnerable to violence, predation, stigmatisation and marginalisation. It will also threaten the livelihood of many who sell sex for a living.

How about listening to the experts – the sex workers – for once?

Alex Feis-Bryce
CEO, National Ugly Mugs, Manchester

Dr Mary Laing
Northumbria University

Nice piece by Dean Kirby (17 February) on the survey of prostitutes, 96 per cent of whom were against criminalisation of buyers of sex. Shame about the editorial proposing the opposite.

Dick Finch

Hospitals told to toe the line

This week, Professor Ian Cumming of Health Education England (HEE) wrote to all NHS trust chief executives. He stated: “Implementation of the national contract will be a key criterion for HEE in making the decisions on our investment in training posts.”

Clearly this amounts to holding hospitals to ransom, appearing to threaten the withholding of doctors in official, nationally recognised training posts from working in trusts which choose not to impose the new junior doctor contract in August.

Such a threat is proof of the heavy-handedness and bullying tactics which junior doctors have experienced at the hands of this government for the past six months, which now appear to be extending to hospital chief executives.

Holly Ni Raghallaigh
Urology Registrar, London W14

David Cameron has spoken fine words about addressing our shameful failure to meet sufficiently the needs the mentally ill. Who can disagree with him? I just find myself wondering idly where he thinks he will find the doctors to deliver his admirable aims. Perhaps he will try to recruit from Canada, Australia, New Zealand...

Beryl Wall
London W4

Confidentiality under threat

Some years ago I was part of a team advising probation areas on information security, including the Data Protection Act. A person’s criminal record and personal circumstances are defined as personal, or sensitive personal information under the Act, and their revelation by the probation service to anyone without a genuine need to know could be a breach of that Act. The changes to probation offices being made by Sodexo (“’There is no privacy’ ...”, 8 February) appear to make conducting a confidential interview impossible in the new open-plan offices.

Probation officers (the nicest clients I have ever had) need to discuss drug habits, family abuse and violence issues, and any offences committed by the offender, in a secure environment. Any offender worried about being found by a previous abusive partner or relative could be overheard, or possibly the case file could be seen and partially read by another offender, and the information passed on or sold to “interested parties”.

The Napo probation union should refer the matter urgently to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and inform Sodexo that the ICO has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000 for breaches of the Act, preferably before someone is seriously injured or killed. (No I’m not joking, the offender may be a petty criminal, but their stalker may be seriously violent.)

Any offender could legitimately refuse to discuss their personal details in such an open environment, and potentially sue for failing to keep their personal information safe.

If politicians object to spending money on this, maybe they would like to discuss the intimate details of their own private lives in public: I understand that Messrs Cameron, Johnson and Osborne are uncommunicative about their escapades as Bullingdon Club members, but I am sure the Probation Service would lend them an interested ear.

Peter Slessenger

Cameron could lose the point of Europe

On wonders whether anyone in Downing Street has really done their maths about voting intentions in the EU referendum. It is clear that David Cameron’s negotiations are unlikely to impress many Eurosceptics or persuade them to vote In. However there must be many who will now think of abstaining rather than voting In. This is because, by ditching Ever Closer Union, Mr Cameron will have ruined the whole idea.

There must be millions, like me, for whom the overwhelming importance of the European project is that it has delivered peace and security to the vast majority of Europe for the whole of our lives. Scrap this basic tenet of membership and start to restrict freedom of movement and it loses all of its purpose, which is to bring people together.

Rod Auton
Middle Handley, Derbyshire

David Cameron says the world would be a more dangerous place if Britain voted to leave the European Union. When we remember that the referendum was Cameron’s idea in the first place, and that he came up with the notion because of pressure and agitation within his own party, it follows that the Tory party itself is an existential threat to the peace and stability of the British nation.

What does Cameron propose to do about this threat?

Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire

The most urgent task in Syria

With Russia supporting the Assad regime, I think that the West should bow to the inevitable and accept that the moderate rebels won’t win the war in Syria.

Instead of providing military support to them, the western powers should concentrate their efforts on diplomacy to achieve safeguards for the Sunni community in Syria and ways of addressing its historic grievances, in return for allowing President Assad to stay in power for the time being.

If such diplomatic efforts were successful, all concerned could then join forces to fight Isis, which is surely the most urgent task.

Peter Nixon
Richmond, Surrey

Dangerous lasers and the law

A compelling case can be made for the boneheaded possessors of super-powerful lasers – which I understand are impossible to use indoors and cannot be excused as “presentational tools” – to face stringent legal penalties for their misuse. Will it take the actual downing of a passenger jet, with the inevitably massive loss of life, to nudge our politicians into action?

I suggest 10 years minimum for possession, life imprisonment if someone’s proven to have deliberately targeted an aircraft. But wait… aren’t these superpower lasers imported from the Far East?

Notwithstanding the proportion of product bought directly online by individual users, this disgusting government has a track record of doing business, come what may, with many of that region’s more dubious regimes. I suspect convincing Tory trade ministers of the urgency for tougher restrictive laws will take more than an insignificant mass murder or two.

Richard Butterworth
St Day, Cornwall

Who wants Trident enough to pay for it?

If Trident, this monumental waste of money, is so important to the countries of Nato, what percentage of it are they prepared to pay and where are they willing to base it? If none and nowhere, then I suggest we do the same.

Dr David West
Upminster, Essex

What price moral judgement?

If, as the proposed boycott ban suggests, the Government feels that we should exercise no moral judgement in deciding from whom we purchase goods, what’s to stop us importing cheap oil from Isis?

Arnie Donoff
London N11

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