REPORT OF THE EXPERT GROUP ON PROSTITUTION IN SCOTLAND: ANALYSIS OF CONSULTATION RESPONSES

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CHAPTER 1: BACKGROUND TO THE CONSULTATION

1.1 THE CONSULTATION

The consultation Being Outside: Constructing a Response to Street Prostitution was launched by the Scottish Executive on 16 December 2004. Copies of the consultation paper were distributed to a wide range of people and organisations in the public, academic and voluntary sectors 1. The document comprised the first report from the Expert Group on Prostitution. This Expert Group was set up by the Scottish Executive in 2003 following concern about the rising incidence of prostitution in Scotland, the damage to those involved, the harm which can be caused to communities and the possible association with a range of serious criminal activities including drug misuse and people trafficking.

The Expert Group was asked to review the legal, policing, health and social justice issues surrounding prostitution in Scotland and to consider options for the future. During its first year the Expert Group has been considering the issues surrounding street prostitution and Being Outside is the Expert Group's first stage report. In year two, the Expert Group intends to focus on issues relating to prostitution taking place indoors. Finally, the Group will address any remaining issues such as trafficking and issues relating to men who sell sex.

The consultation document, Being Outside set out the Expert Group's approach, described the context of street prostitution in Scotland and the key factors which cause women to become involved. The Group proposed that the current law on soliciting should be replaced with a new legal focus which deals with offensive behaviour or conduct surrounding street prostitution (whether committed by the buyer or seller). Other key recommendations included the proposal for the establishment of a national strategic framework to be created by the Scottish Executive, setting out the general approach which local authorities should adopt in responding to street prostitution, and the preparation of implementation plans by relevant local authorities setting out how they will respond to these issues. The consultation sought views on these and other proposals relating to preventing involvement in prostitution, early intervention, reducing the harm caused by street prostitution and exiting prostitution.

The consultation period ran from 16 December 2004 until 18 March 2005 although a small number of responses were received shortly after this date and have been included in this analysis. A news release helped publicise the consultation document which was made available on the Scottish Executive's website. In announcing the consultation the Chair of the Expert Group, Sandra Hood said:

" Around 1400 women across Scotland are now estimated to be involved in street prostitution, mainly in our four largest cities. Having visited these areas, we know there is no single solution to the problems which this can create but there are common challenges we must address. Taken together, we believe our legislative proposals and the new framework provide a set of pragmatic, workable proposals that will help address concerns about the safety of those involved in street prostitution, those at risk of becoming involved and the need to help protect those communities affected by the increase in street prostitution in Scotland."

By the final cut-off date for analysis, 62 responses to the consultation had been received and have been included in this analysis 2. This report presents an analysis of these 62 responses. The findings will inform the Scottish Executive's plans to address the challenges posed by increasing levels of street prostitution in Scotland.

1Annex 1 contains the original distribution list.
2Annex 2 contains a list of respondents.

1.2 CONTEXT

The Expert Group on Prostitution in Scotland was set up in August 2003 with membership drawn from the legal and health professions, from academic institutions, from police and prison services, from local authorities and from the voluntary organisations. The emphasis was on bringing together representatives with operational or research experience in this field in order to ensure that consideration of this complex and challenging issue is well informed and soundly based.

While the Scottish Parliament had considered the possible introduction of legally sanctioned "tolerance zones" as one response to the concern over the rising incidence of prostitution in Scotland, the Expert Group was set up to examine all issues relevant to prostitution. In considering its first report focusing on women involved in street prostitution, the Group gathered information and research relating to the UK, Europe and other countries comparable to Scotland. It examined the current position in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, spoke directly to service providers involved in this field and heard from some of the women involved through meetings and commissioned research. The Group also shared information and ideas with the Home Office review which has been carrying out similar work in England and Wales.

The remainder of the report documents the consultation process (Chapter 2), and the findings to emerge from the detailed analysis of responses (Chapters 3-9).

CHAPTER 2: THE CONSULTATION PROCESS

2.1 TIMING OF CONSULTATION

The consultation became "live" on 16 December 2004 and closed on 18 March 2005 although responses received shortly after this deadline have been included in the analysis. The scale of the consultation was wide in terms of distribution to stakeholders but relatively moderate in terms of the volume of responses received for a consultation of this nature. Staff in the Scottish Executive's Justice Department supported the exercise.

2.2 NATURE OF CONSULTATION

The consultation document comprised 74 pages (excluding bibliography) and was divided into 12 main parts. Sections 1-5 set out the Expert Group's approach to its task, defined the terms it used, described the context of street prostitution and the key factors identified as leading women to prostitution. In Section 6, the Group identified a need for a comprehensive, co-ordinated approach to address a series of complex objectives:

  • to safeguard women involved in street based prostitution, reduce the harm they experience, tackle the concurrent behaviours such as drug misuse and help them towards exiting prostitution;
  • to protect residential and commercial communities from the effects of prostitution
  • to prevent children and young women who may be vulnerable to becoming involved in prostitution from taking that step; and
  • to influence the attitudes which lead to the high levels of sexual and physical abuse through street prostitution.

The Expert Group outlined a proposed approach based on a national strategy which requires identification of whether there is evidence of street prostitution in the local authority areas, followed by local planned action when a need is identified. Sections 7 - 10 of the consultation document set out in greater detail the recommended content of the local strategic plan addressing:

  • Prevention
  • Early intervention
  • Harm reduction
  • Exiting prostitution, and
  • Co-ordinating the process

The final section of the document considered the application of the criminal law to street based prostitution in Scotland, sought to consider the equity and effectiveness of the law in its approach to prostitution and made recommendations for changes to the law.

Rather than pose specific consultation questions, views were invited on the proposals set out in the Expert Group's report. An on-line response form was provided with consultees also offered the options of emailing a response of sending a hard copy by post.

2.3 NATURE OF RESPONSES

Almost all responses were submitted electronically to the consultation team, or arrived in both electronic and hard copy form. Fifty-eight of the 62 responses were from organisations; the remaining 4 responses were submitted on behalf of individual consultees.

Responses were relatively varied in their format. Some respondents used the response form provided which sought views on the broad approach recommended by the Expert Group and specific elements of the proposed local action plans. Others chose to broaden their response to cover wider aspects of the Expert Group's report such as the context of street prostitution. Some respondents focused on the objectives defined by the Group, whilst others concentrated on the summary and conclusions section. Many consultees expressed general views on the issues of street prostitution and their perception of the effectiveness of the approach adopted by the Expert Group in tackling these. This significant variety in format of submissions presented a challenge to their analysis. After much consideration, it was decided that the most effective manner in which to represent the views of respondents would be firstly, to present the general comments received, then link the remaining views to the specific topic headings which had been highlighted in the formal consultation response form.

2.4 THE RESPONDENTS

The full list of respondents is documented at Annex 2. Respondents could be grouped into broad categories as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Respondents by Category

Respondent Category

No. of Responses

% of Responses

NGOs

22

35

Local Authority

16

26

Health Bodies

9

15

Church

5

8

Individuals

4

6

Police Bodies

3

5

Other Public Sector

3

5

TOTAL

62

100

Responses from non-government organisations comprised the largest category of submissions (35%). Just over one quarter of responses were provided by local authorities (26%) with health bodies such as health boards and dedicated health groups constituting the third largest category of respondents (15%).

There was evidence from many of the submissions from organisations that their response represented the consolidated views of a wider body of consultees. For example, SCOTPEP, the Scottish based charity set up by and for sex workers, undertook a service user consultation on the Expert Group's report, which gave people the options of taking part in an individual interview or posting views on a comments board. In addition, SCOTPEP requested that Scottish Civic Forum facilitate a focus group with people who work or have worked in street prostitution. The findings from these various approaches were submitted as responses to the Expert Group's consultation. Likewise, the output from a focus group, made up of a variety of individuals from both statutory and voluntary service providers, formed the basis of the response from the Glasgow Alliance.

In addition to responding to the issues raised in the consultation document, many consultees chose also to outline related developments in their own particular locations and respective organisations. Whilst not reported in detail in this analysis of responses, these more localised aspects of many submissions have been noted by the Scottish Executive consultation team and will be taken into account in its future deliberations.

Naming Respondents

In view of the relatively modest number of responses to the consultation, and the relatively high volume of respondents who either requested confidentiality, or did not make clear whether confidentiality was requested or not, the approach taken in this report is to attribute comments and quotes to the grouped respondent category to which they fit without revealing more about the respondent. The terms used to describe the different category of respondent are as follows:

NGO

Non-Government Organisation

LA

Local Authority

H

Health Body

Ch

Church

Pol

Police Body

OP

Other Public Sector

Indiv

Individual

2.5 APPROACH TO ANALYSIS

Analytical Framework

An electronic Excel database was used to store and assist in the analysis of the responses. This database enabled the storage of either free text in a systematic manner whilst providing the flexibility for framework amendments should they be required as the work progressed.

The datasheets used to record the material were based largely on the headings used in the response form accompanying the consultation document. Specific fields within each of the datasheets were designated following an examination of the detail of the responses and the topics they raised.

Quantitative Material

Although much of the analysis was based on descriptive free text, some limited scope existed for quantitative analysis and this was exploited. This involved approximate counts of the numbers of respondents who commented on particular topics and, within these groups, the numbers of respondents holding particular views. However, because of the open nature of the consultation, which did not require people to provide a response on every issue and the approach of many consultees which was to provide general comments rather than responding to each issue raised, quantification of responses was not appropriate in all instances and should be treated as simply indicative and illustrative rather than absolute. In addition, it should be noted that any statistics quoted here cannot be extrapolated to a wider population outwith the consultation population.

Factual Accuracy

The views presented in this analysis have not been vetted in any way for factual accuracy. The opinions and comments submitted to the consultation may be based on fact or may, indeed, be based on what respondents perceive to be accurate from their perspective, but which others may interpret differently. It is important for the analysis to represent views from all perspectives. The report may, therefore, contain analysis of responses which may be factually inaccurate, but are objective in terms of their reflection of strongly held perceptions.

Terminology Adopted

Responses varied in their use of terms to describe people involved in street prostitution. The main difference was between the use of the terms "sex worker" and "sex industry" as opposed to "prostitute" and "street prostitution". For some, this differentiation in terms was important and was part of their particular stance on the issues under consideration. This report strives to represent each respondent's chosen terminology wherever possible, with the result that terms may change throughout the analysis accordingly.

Where the report refers to the "Group", this relates to the Expert Group that produced the consultation document.

2.6 RESPONDENTS' VIEWS ON THE CONSULTATION PROCESS

Several respondents from a range of different respondent categories commented on the consultation process. Raising most comment was the decision by the Expert Group to adopt a staged approach to its work, commencing with street based prostitution before turning its attention to indoor prostitution, trafficking and male prostitution.

In total, 9 (15%) of respondents expressed concern that examination of these aspects of prostitution had been separated in this way by the Expert Group. Typical comments were that separating these elements may overlook the opportunity to identify key factors underpinning all of the stages and this could lead to concentrating on minimising the harm rather than tackling root causes. The segmentation of different aspects tended to be viewed as artificial and masking the mobility of people between them. One comment was that this stance failed to take a holistic, inclusive approach ( NGO). Another was that an opportunity had been missed to obtain a balanced view on the situation in Scotland (Pol).

Three respondents, however, appeared content to accept the staged approach proposed, with one commenting:

" We are pleased that the expert panel recognises important differences between types of sex work and agree that their task of examining all the issues will be more manageable in sections. Since Being Outside deals only with street based sex work provided by women, it should not extend beyond this." ( NGO)

Another concern of a small minority was that, in their view, the Expert Group required wider representation. In particular, it was considered that the health service had not been appropriately represented on the Group (H), that the views of sex workers themselves had not been adequately reflected in the report ( NGO), and that the Group had suffered from a lack of representation from those with experience of developing and co-ordinating corporate multi-agency responses ( LA).

One respondent argued that as this was the first of a series of reports, it should have started with a broader conceptualising of the problem, including definitions, and an exposition of its nature and root cause (Indiv). Another respondent expressed disappointment that the recent policy initiatives within bodies such as the Association of Chief Police Officers ( ACPOs), and the Local Government Agency and Home Office Research Study "Tackling Street Prostitution: Towards a holistic approach", did not appear to have been acknowledged or been used to inform the Expert Group's deliberations ( LA).

The following 7 Chapters document the substance of the analysis. Chapter 3 presents general views of respondents on the content of the Expert Group's report. The remaining Chapters outline more specific views, arguments and recommendations in relation to the particular issues raised by the consultation document.

CHAPTER 3: GENERAL VIEWS ON EXPERT GROUP'S REPORT

Responses to the consultation were characterised by the relatively large proportion of consultees who provided general, overarching comments on the content of the report in addition to addressing the specific aspects raised. Overall, 50 respondents (81%) provided general commentary. Common themes to emerge in these responses are documented below.

3.1 WELCOME AND SUPPORT FOR THE REPORT AND PRINCIPLES

Many respondents stated that they welcomed the report, with much support expressed for its broad principles, recommendations and what was seen as the constructive manner in which themes had been identified and presented. A representative selection of comments follows:

A representative selection of comments

Some respondents highlighted their appreciation of the way in which the Group had recommended a "joined-up" approach to addressing the problem (Indiv), which recognised the multi-layered nature of the difficulties faced by those involved ( LA) and the need for a joint, co-ordinated approach to tackle these (H).

A recurring comment was to support the report's stance that, for the sellers of services, prostitution is a survival behaviour as opposed to a positive life style choice. However, one respondent cautioned that sex workers do not necessarily view themselves as abused victims, and it may be inadvisable to ascribe motivations to them which they themselves may not recognise ( NGO).

3.2 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORKS

Despite such support from many respondents, others shared the view that the Expert Group had failed to give clear direction and guidance on how prostitution should be tackled. It was stressed that prostitution should not be regarded as inevitable (H), or behaviour to be managed rather than eradicated (H). One respondent expressed their view thus:

" The lack of a clear steer to Ministers by the Expert Group as to how prostitution in Scotland should be responded to, will not be helpful to local authorities in addressing this issue. It is considered to be a missed opportunity that could have promoted a more consistent approach to this social problem by local authorities and their partners at a local level" ( LA).

A few respondents remarked that the report did not appear to identify prostitution as harmful in itself ( NGO, H, LA), with one consultee arguing that any response to the problem which normalises prostitution and pre-supposes its existence should be questioned ( LA).

The view of some commentators was that the report failed to focus adequately on the demand side of prostitution and include this aspect sufficiently in considering ways to address the problem (H, 2 LA, NGO). A typical remark was:

" The report …misses an opportunity to make clear statements and adopt a proactive holistic approach…..whilst the report gives focus on reducing the violence and harm faced by vulnerable women and communities there is no fundamental challenge to the right of men to buy women" ( NGO).

It was argued that focusing on the women involved and their needs without addressing the men buying services may reduce some level of individual harm but will not tackle the fundamental problem of prostitution.

For many respondents from a range of sectors, the report failed to position the issues appropriately, which in their view was within the domain of violence against women. A recurring comment was that prostitution is part of the continuum of violence against women and should be tackled holistically within this framework. One view was that:

" As it stands, the report echoes the dichotomy between seeing the prostitute as an affront to public order to be controlled and contained, or a victim to be protected and relocated" ( NGO)

The argument was that the broader issues of societal attitudes to the relative position of men and women, and women's unequal position in society needed to be challenged as part of the Group's response to street prostitution. Prostitution was seen by some as sexual abuse and, it was emphasised, should be treated accordingly. One commentator recommended that we should indicate a similar lack of tolerance to prostitution as we do to domestic abuse ( LA). It was argued that prostitutes were not used wholly by inadequate men, demonstrating the urgent need to look at raising public awareness about the unacceptability of this behaviour.

Linked to the above was a common recommendation for a sustained national educational initiative aimed at changing societal attitudes and beliefs which lead, " primarily to male, physical, psychological and sexual abuse of women" ( NGO). One view was that this should be focused in particular on the early stages of young men's experiences ( NGO). Another was that the model of educative campaign used by the recent "See Me" initiative (in mental health) would be useful in addressing the stigma and discrimination associated with street prostitution (H).

3.3 FOCUS ON CITIES

Whilst acknowledging the rationale for the report's focus on the main cities in Scotland, a few respondents (H, 2 LA, NGO) felt that this may be short-sighted and that attention should also be paid to the prostitution commuter belts and rural areas in close proximity to urban areas. However, a few commentators urged caution in applying an approach designed for urban areas in more rural locations ( LA, H) arguing that more local solutions should be sought.

3.4 RESOURCING THE RECOMMENDATIONS

A common theme was that any new and existing initiatives aimed at addressing street prostitution would require adequate funding to be effective. The report was perceived as failing to acknowledge the costs associated with implementing the recommended actions ( LA). It was commented that where specific relevant services already exist they appeared in many cases, to be significantly under-funded with a lack of recognition that prostitution is not purely the responsibility of the NHS but a larger societal issue (H). One suggestion was for relevant monies allocated to local authorities to tackle prostitution to be ring-fenced ( NGO).

3.5 EVIDENCE BASE

A few consultees remarked on what they perceived to be the thin evidence base on which the Expert Group's recommendations were based (H, LA, NGO). It was acknowledged that whilst an extensive and robust body of evaluative material may not exist, the report appeared not to take sufficient cognisance of the recent local evidence available and the information contained in many of the sources it referenced ( LA).

However, in contrast to these views were those of consultees who perceived the report to be, " very clear and analytical" ( NGO) and comprising, " a very robust investigation" (H).

Calls were made for further research and investigation into aspects of street prostitution to widen the evidence base. For example, the quantification of the extent of street prostitution amongst girls aged under-16 years ( OP); links with other forms of violence against women ( NGO); and the full diversity of sex work and the various stakeholders both within the sex industry and those affected by it ( NGO).

3.6 SEPARATION OF MORALITY AND THE LAW

The Expert Group proposed that, as a way forward in tackling prostitution, the law should not criminalise on a moral basis. Emerging from responses which referred this stance, a common argument was that as most criminal law reflects, to a greater or lesser extent, society's views of what is morally right of wrong, why should prostitution be any different? Some commentators urged the Scottish Executive to, proactively, take a moral stance regarding prostitution legislation (2 NGO) whilst another suggested that:

" it is abundantly clear from the whole tenor of their report that they (the Expert Group) regard prostitution as a wholly negative and harmful activity" (Indiv)

3.7 SPECIFIC ISSUES

Finally, several specific comments regarding, for example, precise wording and legal issues were raised by various respondents.

A few respondents highlighted what they saw as contradictions within the report. For example, one consultee criticised what they saw as the tension between the report's emphasis on exiting and its aim to reduce harm ( NGO). Another respondent commented that some recommendations appeared to be contradictory, for example, providing the opportunity for local authorities to designate tolerance zones whilst at the same time introducing legislation which penalises anyone soliciting or buying sex if this causes offence ( LA). One remark was that not only was the report full of, " value-laden jargon" which made it difficult to follow but it contained many inaccuracies and contradictions ( LA).

One commentator suggested that a major flaw in the report was its lack of recognition of the mental and emotional health consequences for the women involved ( LA). Another stressed that the Scottish Executive should do more to regulate aspects of the sex industry (such as licensing premises used by lap dancing clubs) which may be perceived as less offensive and abusive but which, the respondent suggested, could feed a culture of acceptability of a sexual economy ( NGO).

SUMMARY POINTS

  • The majority of respondents (81%) provided general commentary on the consultation document, with much support expressed for its broad principles, recommendations and what was seen as the constructive manner in which themes had been identified and presented.
  • Despite such support, however, some respondents felt that the Expert Group had failed to give clear direction and guidance on how street prostitution should be tackled.
  • A recurring comment was that prostitution is part of the continuum of violence against women and should be tackled holistically within this framework.
  • A common recommendation was for a sustained, national educational initiative aimed at changing societal attitudes and beliefs towards the acceptability of violence towards women and de-stigmatising prostitution.
  • A common theme was that any new and existing initiatives aimed at addressing street prostitution would require adequate funding to be effective.
  • Respondents recommended further research and investigation to supplement what was seen as the current thin evidence base on which to build policy.
CHAPTER 4: MANAGING THE PROCESS OF RESPONDING TO STREET PROSTITUTION

The consultation document stated:

A national strategic framework is necessary, requiring local identification of whether a need exists, action where evidence of street prostitution is identified, and setting out the core content of any local approach and the standards of service and principles of good practice which should be applicable.

Where evidence of need is identified a local implementation plan should be drawn up, involving the full range of local service interests. The plan should include a strategy for preventing the involvement of vulnerable people in street prostitution; early intervention measures with those beginning to become actively involved; services for reducing harm with those more deeply involved; arrangements for managing risk and nuisance; and services supporting women to exit street prostitution, prevent relapse and sustain non-involvement in prostitution.

Implementation of the plan should be monitored at regular intervals against agreed targets and nationally prescribed standards of performance. The Group sees benefit in the establishment of a national forum to oversee the process of defining the strategy and monitoring its implementation.

4.1 NATIONAL STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK

Thirty-six respondents (58%) commented on the proposal for a new national strategic framework. The overwhelming view was one of support for the development of an overarching national framework as a basis for the construction of local implementation plans.

Typical comments included:

" The implementation by the Scottish Executive of a national framework document, of which local authorities would be required to follow, is an idea which should be applauded" (Indiv)

" The report provides the basis for a National Strategy that gives a large degree of local flexibility and this will enable the four cities to tackle the issue in a way that is appropriate to their context" (H)

" A national framework and implementation plans involving all interested parties seems a sensible and comprehensive approach" ( NGO)

" The setting up of a national strategic framework for tackling prostitution is a positive way forward. It recognises the local aspect of the phenomenon and creates a means of addressing the key issues which retain local discretion but establishes a degree of consistency of standards and expectations" ( NGO)

" The proposal for the establishment of a National Strategy is welcomed, since although the problems have a clear local dimension, they also have a national dimension, and action at any one level has system implications" ( LA)

Several respondents, largely from the local authority sector, highlighted their support for a co-ordinated response to the problem of street prostitution. Many commentators from across different respondee sectors stressed the importance of adopting a multi-agency approach. There was also explicit support from a few respondents for the strategic objectives outlined in the report. However, in relation to the first of the strategic objectives set out in paragraph 6.1 of the report:

"to safeguard women involved in street prostitution, reduce the harm they experience, tackle the concurrent behaviours such a drug misuse and help them towards existing prostitution"

it was commented that a guarantee to safeguard women could not be totally assured (Pol, OP) and perhaps the term "to assist women" should be used instead. A few respondents welcomed specifically the placement of women at the centre of the strategy (2 LA, OP).

A minority of respondents spelled out why they considered a national strategy to be the way forward. Rationales included:

  • sound basis for the development of local implementation plans
  • required as a framework for a comprehensive, co-ordinated approach
  • as an appropriate response to the identification of common key factors associated with street prostitution
  • to ensure some consistency of response across Scotland
  • to give any measures adopted a strategic context and sense of co-ordination

It was pointed out that similar models of operating were already in practice in various locations in Scotland. Mention was made in this regard of the regional community and health planning mechanisms currently in place in the Highlands (H). However, one view was that many existing initiatives relied on individual motivation and personal commitment, and the proposed framework would serve to put current arrangements on a more formal footing ( NGO). One respondent cautioned that although the proposed approach appeared to be a logical step forward, the difficulties of devising such a framework should not be underestimated, with many current examples existing of initiatives lacking in co-ordination ( NGO).

For some, the report needed to go further and be clearer on how the national strategy would operate in practice. For example, clarity was requested on which authority would have the lead responsibility for co-ordinating an approach and who would monitor the achievement of targets and national standards (Pol). This consultee suggested that it may be difficult to achieve the proposals without either mandatory guidance or a statutory requirement for services to work jointly to this end. A few respondents recommended that the principles of Community Planning Partnerships be adopted in the establishment of a national framework (Pol, NGO). What was perceived as a likely need for additional funding to support the new strategy was raised by several respondents.

One view was that consideration should be given to harmonising the Scottish strategy with the approach taken in the rest of the UK ( NGO). Another was that the strategy should link with other related national strategies, such as that those tackling violence against women and promoting equalities ( LA).

Several commentators agreed with the general approach to establishing a national framework, but urged that the plans go further than those contained in the report. For example, calls were made for the strategy to apply to all aspects of prostitution ( LA) including male and female prostitutes (Pol). A few respondents emphasised that the strategy should be very clear on setting a vision ( LA) and laying down principles to underpin the approach adopted ( LA). It was commented that to achieve understanding and universal acceptance, the framework needs a core philosophy to drive it ( NGO). Suggestions were made that this philosophy should revolve around the unacceptability of violence against women, with prostitution one element within it (2 NGO).

Existing local models of perceived good practice within Scotland were proposed as offering useful experience in establishing a national strategy ( NGO). Indeed, it was argued that although an overarching national framework is to be welcomed, the cities mentioned in the report reflect wide variation in the existing nature, levels of, and response to street prostitution, indicating the importance of allowing for much local tailoring of plans ( LA).

Contributors to the National Strategy and Local Plans

A consideration of appropriate contributors to the development of a national strategy and local implementation plans generated some debate. One respondee urged that the strategy be developed:

" participatively, by key stakeholders throughout Scotland, particularly including representatives from the four cities with identified significant activity, eg Base 75, Glasgow, Grampian Sex Industry Workers Forum " (H)

Some respondents endorsed the report's proposal that women involved in street prostitution be involved in local authority implementation groups (H, 2 NGO). Others suggested that the particular hands-on experience of their respective organisations would make them a useful member of any group convened to devise local and/or national approaches to the problem of street prostitution (2 NGO). It was remarked that vulnerable people are often "hard-to-reach" and will contact voluntary or community groups for assistance rather than turning to the statutory sector, and therefore NGOs should be involved in developments ( NGO).

National Forum

A small minority of respondents commented specifically on the proposal to establish a new National Forum to oversee the process of defining the strategy and monitoring its implementation. The views expressed included support for its establishment ( NGO, LA), and a recommendation that the Forum should include members from a variety of sectors and agencies and Ministerial input ( NGO). However, a contrasting view was that the need for such a Forum was not clear, with the report leaving the proposed body without a clear definition, other than a function to take up a monitoring role (Ch).

4.2 LOCAL IMPLEMENTATION PLANS

Several respondents from a variety of sectors expressed their support for the ethos of local planning to address street prostitution, within the framework of a national guiding strategy. One remarked:

" we recognise that the problems and issues vary considerably in different parts of Scotland and we believe that local bodies (including councils, health, police and the voluntary sector) should have considerable freedom to decide the best strategies for their areas" (Ch)

Concern was expressed by one consultee over the level of central direction implied by the implementation plan. They argued that non-directive guidance could be valuable, but they were less comfortable with what they saw as Ministerial prescription over the actual content of the local plan ( LA).

In contrast to the many voices supporting the development of local implementation plans, were 2 local authority dissenting views. One respondent argued for the avoidance of what they saw as yet another plan at local level, particularly in the light of their perception of the many existing opportunities to address the issue in current council and partner plans. Another view was that implementation plans constituted, " abstract concepts" which diverted attention away from, " real practical measures that can be taken".

Identification of Need for a Local Implementation Plan

Whilst some consultees agreed with the proposal that the development of plans should take place only where need had been identified (Pol, H), and suggested that it should be made even clearer that authorities could opt out from local planning where no need emerged ( LA), others questioned this approach. One respondent asked which criteria would be used to determine local need, suggesting numbers of arrests, levels of HIV, numbers of complaints from local people, numbers of women coming to courts as candidates ( LA). Others argued that developing plans only in those areas where prostitution is identified takes a narrow view ( NGO) as women involved in street prostitution may well travel from outlying areas into the cities to participate (2 LA, NGO, OP). Indeed, one local authority respondent cautioned against complacency in planning a response particularly in view of the current arrival of potentially vulnerable migrant workers. One view was that with respect to the fact that vulnerable young people are drawn to city areas, perhaps children's services planning in all authorities should consider the need for the services identified in Chapter 7 of the report (Preventing Involvement in Prostitution).

A pragmatic view was that even if a local implementation plan is deemed unnecessary based on identified need, the details which it would have covered will be dealt with anyway in the existing strategic plans relating to community safety, social inclusion and so on ( LA).

The potential challenge posed by undertaking a comprehensive needs assessment in the context of street prostitution, where estimating numbers could prove difficult, was highlighted by one respondent who called for joint commitment from all relevant agencies and commitment and support from the Expert Group and Scottish Executive to aid the process (H).

Links with Other Local Planning Structures

A recurring theme was the identification of compatibility between existing local planning mechanisms and structures and the proposed local implementation plans. Suggestions were made that the response to prostitution should be located within the current Community Planning framework ( LA) or based on such a model ( NGO). It was recommended that existing Community Safety Partnerships could frame their plans in accordance with the Expert Group's proposals for local implementation plans ( LA, OP) or that the implementation plans could be integrated into the plans of such partnerships ( LA) or take account of local protocols relating to, for example, vulnerable young people ( LA). One respondent advocated the specific linking of health, housing and homelessness services within the street prostitution planning framework ( NGO).

A few consultees called for a clearer indication that the voluntary sector would form part of the partnership involved in developing and executing the local plans (3 NGO). A call was made for the involvement also of local faith communities ( NGO).

In the context of multi-agency working, the need for appropriate protocols relating to the sharing of information between different organisations was highlighted ( OP).

Learning from Others

A few respondents suggested that a sensible way to progress the development of the proposed local plans should be to incorporate lessons learned previously. For example, one suggestion was for learning from previous good practice both north and south of the border ( LA). Another was for an incremental implementation of the proposals, starting with only a few local authorities and learning from these "Phase 1 Pilots" before bringing other authorities on stream on a phased basis ( NGO).

Funding of Implementation Plans

Several respondents representing different sectors raised questions about who would fund what they saw as the additional tasks of identifying need and developing and executing local implementation plans. It was remarked that currently, organisations involved in local work to support women involved in prostitution in Grampian were suffering from lack of funding (H). One respondent voiced their concern thus:

" We are clear that given the prospects of additional resources are minimal, the degree of central prescription with no accompanying resource represents an unreasonable position in our view" ( LA)

Monitoring Standards of Performance

There was much support for the proposal for plans to be monitored at regular intervals against agreed targets and nationally prescribed standards of performance. However, a few commentators stressed that such monitoring should leave room for local circumstances and flexibility ( LA, OP) with a caution that adopting a "one size fits all" approach to setting standards might lead to a skew in results ( LA). A call was made for a review cycle of 2 rather than 3 years in view of the rapidly changing nature of the prostitution market ( NGO). Questions were raised over who would have responsibility for setting the standards ( LA) and how decisions would be taken on what constitutes a good or acceptable standard ( LA).

One dissenting voice expressed doubt over the appropriateness of applying performance measurement techniques within the context of addressing street prostitution. They argued that this was not the type of issue which lent itself to such measurement ( LA).

4.3 SUGGESTED OMISSIONS IN RECOMMENDATIONS

A few suggestions were made for issues which may benefit from coverage in the national strategy and local plans. These included:

  • further examination of sexual grooming (H)
  • greater mention of alcohol misuse which it was considered, was widespread amongst prostitutes yet often masked by other factors ( NGO)
  • less emphasis on the negative aspects of prostitution - women are more likely to identify and engage with initiatives if the positive aspects of prostitution are acknowledged by them (eg untaxable income) ( NGO)
  • the reflection of the principles of informing, engaging and consulting with people as part of the quality assurance process and to reflect existing equality and diversity strategies ( NGO)
  • attention to the overlap between women involved in small scale acquisitive crime and prostitution. For example, success in addressing shop lifting can, for some women, displace this criminal activity to street prostitution behaviour ( LA)
  • more emphasis on domestic abuse as a key contributor to street prostitution and the implications for child protection issues ( LA)

SUMMARY POINTS

  • Amongst those who commented on the proposal for a new national strategic framework, the overwhelming view was one of support for its development as a basis for the construction of local implementation plans.
  • There was much support for the co-ordinated, multi-agency response advocated by the Group.
  • An inclusive approach which used the experiences of relevant individuals and organisations in developing the plans was recommended by many commentators.
  • There were mixed views on the proposal to establish a new National Forum to oversee the process of defining the strategy and monitoring its implementation. Some support was expressed, but it was also felt that the need for the Forum required further clarification.
  • Several respondents from a variety of sectors expressed their support for the ethos of local planning to address street prostitution, within the framework of a national guiding strategy.
  • A recurring theme was the identification of compatibility between existing local planning mechanisms and structures and the proposed local implementation plans.
  • It was suggested that the development of local plans should build on relevant lessons learned previously throughout Great Britain.
  • Several respondents from a range of sectors queried who would fund what they saw as the additional tasks of identifying need and developing and executing local implementation plans.
  • There was much support for the proposal for plans to be monitored at regular intervals against agreed standards and nationally prescribed standards of performance. However, it was urged that room should also be left for local flexibility.
CHAPTER 5: PREVENTING INVOLVEMENT IN PROSTITUTION

The consultation document stated:

The local plan might be expected to cover the…identification of young people at potential risk of becoming involved, and development of preventive engagement and intervention. Because there is a tendency for city areas to draw in vulnerable young people from the surrounding area, this should require the lead authority to secure collaborative preventive commitments from neighbouring authorities who would have a duty to respond positively.

Forty-one (66%) respondents provided commentary relating to the Group's proposals for action to prevent involvement in prostitution. Many comments were of a general nature. Others were specific to the proposals regarding generic community interventions and targeted interventions.

5.1 GENERAL COMMENTS

Many consultees noted simply that they welcomed the approach suggested and/or supported the attention given to root causes of prostitution. One comment was that attention paid to preventive measures in smaller regions such as Fife was crucial in stemming the flow of vulnerable individuals moving on to the cities where the risk of involvement in prostitution could be greater ( OP). Another commentator remarked on the parallels with the approach already adopted by Glasgow City Council in trying to provide a range of services and interventions embedded across many different Departments ( NGO).

A few respondents, however, urged a broader outlook on the notion of wholesale prevention of entering prostitution. One view was that if prevention was successful in one geographical area, perhaps it would simply be displaced elsewhere or even change in form from paid sexual services to rape ( NGO). Another comment was that targeting women with the proposed preventive approaches could only go so far. It still had to be acknowledged that women would retain the ultimate choice over their behaviour ( NGO).

Scope of "Prevention"

Three respondents called for preventive action to target purchasers of sex in addition to the women at risk of becoming involved (2H, LA) in order to prevent an otherwise, "rather one-sided approach" (H).

Another view was that preventive action should encompass after care, relapse strategies and crisis intervention for those women who have already "exited" ( NGO).

A perspective from a smaller region was that without firm evidence of a problem in this area:

" it would not seem appropriate at this stage to label the main purpose of interventions as preventing street prostitution, but to concentrate on existing interventions that are in place that support vulnerable families" ( LA)

One respondent commented on the wording of the report's Objective 3 relating to prevention: " to prevent children and young women who may be vulnerable to becoming involved in prostitution from taking that step". They argued that the wording " taking a step" wrongly implies an element of choice and undermines the current understanding of the commercial sexual exploitation of children ( LA).

Others argued that the explicit focus on children and young women may be misplaced, as a significant volume of older women were also at risk of involvement in prostitution (2 NGO).

Factors Contributing to Risk of Involvement

Whilst many acknowledged the central part played by drug misuse in influencing the likelihood of women entering prostitution, some stressed that other contributors should also be acknowledged in the report. It was suggested that poverty, low self-esteem and alcohol abuse should be added to the factors described in paragraph 7.1 of the report ( NGO). Another view was that alcohol misuse, poverty, lack of opportunity, and low skills and employability should be incorporated ( NGO). One commentator remarked that prostitution had been around much longer than the illegal drug scene and therefore a wide range of other factors must also be relevant as contributing to the problem (H).

Funding Services

Eleven respondents (18%) urged that sufficient funding be allocated to underpin the preventive work recommended (3H, 2 LA, 2Ch, 2 NGO, Pol, OP). One specific comment was that existing services involved in preventive work are already stretched in terms of resourcing, and additional funds would be required to increase their accessibility and appropriateness for tackling street prostitution ( LA). Another respondent described how their organisation struggled constantly with funding constraints in their provision of services to young victims of abuse and that longer term funding would be welcomed ( NGO).

5.2 GENERIC COMMUNITY INTERVENTIONS

There was much support for approaching the prevention of prostitution by deploying general community strategies to tackle aspects of social exclusion, supported by more targeted initiatives aimed at specific "at risk" sectors. In particular, respondents recognised the sense in locating preventive work within existing national and local social inclusion strategies wherever possible. One typical comment was that:

"… agree with the report which suggests that the priorities of preventive work are likely to dovetail with priorities that exist under existing service strategies. As a result we would not want to see duplication in strategy. It is important to harness the existing work being done by services and apply it to the problem of street prostitution in a wider context, tapping into good practice across all authorities" ( LA)

The proposals were viewed by one consultee as, " the ideal network of services" to which we, " all aspire and agree" ( NGO), with another agreeing that whilst the proposals appear, " excellent in themselves", the difficulty may lie in their effective implementation (Ch).

Other respondents agreed that whilst the application of generic community interventions had the potential to impact on preventing prostitution, these had to be underpinned by robust work to tackle substance misuse and poverty ( LA), or disrupt the drugs market ( NGO). One view was that the proposals would never be effective unless there is a common understanding among all the services involved about where, and in whose agenda, the central issue of violence against women is to be addressed ( NGO).

A call was made for the existence of social exclusion in rural areas to be acknowledged within the proposals ( LA).

Education

The proposal that continuing attention be given to strategies relating to educating the public, and in particular young people, attracted the most attention of all the proposals relating to preventive action. Thirteen respondents (21%) made specific comments on this proposal.

Some consultees simply affirmed their support for the proposal to provide education in this context (Indiv, LA), one commenting that currently there appeared to be too little emphasis on this aspect (H).

Others suggested topics that they thought should be part of any educational initiative. These ranged from self respect, the respect of others and health education (Ch), to relationship education and sex education within the context of understanding relationships ( NGO), and a programme to examine public and institutional attitudes to gender and the role of force and power in prostitution (H). A recommendation was made to link educational initiatives to the National Sexual Health Strategy and to local sexual health strategies to maximise their impact (2H). According to one consultee, the Government needs to take a much broader perspective on education, and open the debate to involve topics such as the stereotyping of women, the portrayal of women in the media and the escalating levels of domestic abuse ( LA).

A few respondents presented their view that education should be focused specifically on male purchasers of sex ( NGO) and/or young men (2 NGO).

The delivery of education was considered by some. A call was made for any school based delivery of education to refrain from stigmatising prostitutes, in view of the possibility that children of such women may be amongst their pupils ( NGO). One respondent put forward the suggestion that the use of community volunteers to deliver educational messages would be effective in facilitating the engagement of peers rather than relying solely on professionals services ( NGO).

A specific point of terminology was raised in relation to item 5 of paragraph 12.5 of the report. This stated that there should be a range of national and local initiatives to influence and educate the public regarding the risks of prostitution-based sexual relationships and the abusive elements they contain. A few respondents took exception to the notion that a "sexual relationship" could exist within the context of prostitution, and suggested that it was more appropriate to view this as sexual exploitation or sex abuse ( LA, NGO).

Other Comments

The topic of gender-specific services was taken further by some respondents, with one expressing particular support for specific services for men, to break the cycle of poor parenting, family breakdown, and looked-after children with low self-esteem becoming parents themselves ( NGO). A query was raised in this context regarding the positioning of transgender sex workers within gender-specific services ( NGO).

Comments were made concerning the location of delivery of generic services. It was stressed that community interventions could also be delivered from custody, as with the current programme "Connections" at Cornton Vale (Indiv). One respondent urged that such services should encompass residential schools and children's units ( NGO). Another argued the importance of ensuring that girls at risk, but who do not offend, still have adequate access to appropriate services, in view of the delivery of some initiatives via the youth justice service within the Children's Hearing System ( OP).

Whilst supporting the proposal for generic community interventions, some consultees outlined the implications in terms of need for increased training for generic service staff and better awareness raising ( NGO, LA). In particular, a call was made for a, " supplementary piece of work" to define more explicitly the responsibility of health care providers in relation to the proposals (H).

5.3 TARGETED PREVENTIVE INTERVENTIONS

Much support was documented for the proposal to target preventive interventions towards people at risk of involvement in prostitution. One respondent highlighted in particular their agreement that young women with learning disabilities should be included in the plans ( LA). A few representatives from within the Church sector emphasised what they saw as the current important work being undertaken by Christian organisations in this regard. One offered to provide chaplaincy services to run alongside the ongoing work delivered by many local churches.

The difficulties of sustaining the provision of targeted preventive interventions were hinted at by 3 respondents. One commented that these are less likely to be widely available than generic services and work may need to be done to develop them further, perhaps through alcohol and drug action teams, in order to improve the level of provision (H, NGO). Another suggested that:

" target populations for preventive work require creative, consistent and persistent approaches" ( LA)

5.4 ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

Several respondents offered additional ideas for consideration alongside those proposed. A recurring theme was to explore in more detail the precise mechanisms by which women become involved in prostitution. It was argued that to design preventive strategies, there needs to be substantial and significant research into how sex workers and their clients actually become involved in the first place ( NGO). One view was that introduction by a friend was a common route into prostitution, indicating that sex workers themselves may be essential partners in interventions designed to discourage new entrants ( NGO). Another respondent took the view that "groomers" were often women victims of drugs and prostitutes themselves, and any preventive strategy should address their role in facilitating entry into prostitution ( NGO).

Two consultees raised the issue of evaluating the effectiveness of preventive interventions. One argued that services which focus on prevention have historically experienced difficulty in providing evidence of effectiveness in a convincing manner, suggesting the importance of setting realistic outcome measures which link to research evidence ( NGO). The other respondent stressed simply the need to put in place relevant monitoring and evaluation procedures ( NGO).

Finally, the proposal was made for the development, through action research, of an index or measure of susceptibility to entering prostitution to help to identify people who should be prioritised for pre-emptive intervention ( NGO).

SUMMARY POINTS

  • There was much general support for the approach to prevention suggested in the report and the attention given to the root causes of prostitution.
  • Almost one in five of respondents to the consultation urged that sufficient funding be allocated to underpin the preventive work recommended.
  • Respondents recognised the sense in locating preventive work within existing national and local social inclusion strategies wherever possible.
  • The proposal that continuing attention be given to strategies relating to educating the public, and in particular young people, attracted much attention and support.
  • There was much support for the proposal to target preventive interventions towards people at risk of involvement in prostitution.
CHAPTER 6: EARLY INTERVENTION

The consultation document stated:

The local plan might be expected to cover …early intervention with those young women who are being drawn towards involvement in street prostitution, whether because of drug misuse, the influence of associates, family breakdown, homelessness or whatever reason. Early intervention requires its own set of service responses (which may not be specific to prostitution and may include interventions to address other unwanted consequences of the causal factors described). The preferable way forward is likely to be one which works in a broad way with the young person's growth and development needs, rather than specifically focuses on the single risk of street prostitution.

Overall, 33 respondents (53%) provided commentary of relevance to the issues raised regarding early intervention.

6.1 GENERAL SUPPORT

Several consultees from a variety of sectors offered their general support for the report's proposals. A typical comment was:

" We agree entirely, that strengthening of existing services, collaboration and networking is the most appropriate intervention at this stage" ( NGO)

A few respondents remarked on the similarities of the approach proposed with current ways of working, particularly in relation to child protection and substance misuse ( LA, OP), and one, " that is increasingly familiar to local voluntary and statutory agencies". Another considered that council structures lend themselves to the approach, for example, where the range of social work services for adults, children and offenders is grouped together with housing strategy and more corporate planning for substance misuse and anti-social behaviour ( LA). One respondent stressed the importance of tackling early intervention within the Integrated Children's Services framework under the auspices of Community Planning in order to ensure progression issues are properly addressed ( LA).

6.2 COLLABORATIVE WORKING

Whilst the benefits of the collaborative model of working were appreciated by respondents, several qualified their support by stressing that such an approach may not be straightforward to achieve and sustain.

One local authority consultee remarked that:

" the idea of early intervention is well founded but does depend on a very high level of services working collaboratively and towards the same end. There would require to be local planning, which ensures that this would happen. There also requires to be much better coherent one-person, one report planning for young people at the ages of 12-16 who may become involved in prostitution"

It was remarked that the report gave no clear idea of how service networking might be achieved (Ch), and that it would have been helpful to have been provided with some examples of good practice in working collaboratively ( NGO). One consultee commented on their perception of a lack of evidence of what works in this area, and stressed the importance of designing interventions underpinned by a strong evidence base ( NGO).

A local authority covering more rural locations recommended that on a practical level, strong links between the more rural and city location services would be required to frame an appropriate response at the early intervention stage. The lack of specific reference to the involvement of voluntary organisations at paragraph 8.4 of the report raised the comment that perhaps the potential input of this sector should be given greater "official" recognition ( NGO). The view of a church group was that whatever agencies were involved, it was very important to build trust between those providing services and the users of these services.

A general comment regarding evaluation of practice was to emphasise the need to develop standards and demonstrate outcomes that are realistic and relate directly to early intervention activities ( NGO).

It was remarked that effective collaborative working required adequate funding (H, LA).

Shared Protocols

The need to develop shared protocols between agencies in ways of working and the handling of client's details was a recurring theme in many responses. A call was made for more specific guidance on young people, sexual health, confidentiality, disclosure and child protection as identified by the report, "Respect and Responsibility: Strategy and Action Plan for Improving Sexual Health (Scottish Executive, 2005) (H). The need was identified for multi-disciplinary training on agreed protocols between agencies (H).

Approach to Identifying those At Risk

One respondent questioned how women at risk, who were not already known to support services, would be identified under the model proposed (H). Another stressed the importance of developing effective, confidential reporting methods that existing prostitutes could use to alert authorities to the arrival on the scene of juveniles, trafficked or coerced women and those suffering violence ( NGO).

Two respondents highlighted what they saw as a clear need for agencies to identify newcomers into prostitution, with a clearly defined process of referral to whichever body assumes the responsibility of lead agency. Again, they stressed the need for shared protocols to make best use of the information available and particularly with regard to the requirements of the Children (Scotland) Act and the needs of young people cared for by local authorities and underage youngsters (2Pol).

6.3 SEPARATING EARLY INTERVENTION FROM "LATER" SERVICES

The report stated:

It is important that services which engage at this stage…..are physically separate and distinct from "later" services which are working more specifically with women continuously involved in prostitution. This locates early intervention within the parameters of prevention and avoids the potentially stigmatising association with established prostitution.

Six respondents commented specifically on this proposal and were split between those in favour (2 LA, 2 NGO) and those against (2 NGO). Those against, outlined their concerns. One stated that they neither understood nor agreed with the reasoning set out in the report, arguing that:

" Those working with established prostitutes are those best placed to warn of the risks in the trade and deter new entrants….to create two separate streams of social action concerning prostitution seems economically unattractive, likely to lead to inter-agency tensions and confusing to clients"

The other dissenting voice considered the level of separation of services was unhelpful and contradicted the approach outlined in other parts of the Report. They argued that it was important to provide a flexible and responsive approach rather than separate services which may create barriers to access.

6.4 OTHER COMMENTS

A range of other, more specific, comments were submitted regarding the proposed approach to early intervention:

  • The Vulnerable Children and Young People report (Scottish Executive, 2003) offers a full and helpful list of risk indicators and should be referred to here ( NGO)
  • The key difficulty is in the potential user's inability to access the services, particularly health services ( NGO)
  • The chapter misses the opportunity to expand on the generic community interventions mentioned in the previous chapter and demonstrate what models of working are appropriate ( NGO)
  • Suggest that early intervention with potential social work service users could also be addressed ( LA)
  • The wording of paragraph 8.2 seems to suggest that women have a choice, whereas they are sometimes coerced into prostitution (H)
  • The term used in paragraph 8.2, " early experimental involvement in prostitution" is not helpful and does not reflect the experience of children and young people ( NGO)
  • The language in chapter 8 appears to blur the boundaries between children and young women. We always stress that that people under 16 are children ( LA)

SUMMARY POINTS

  • Several consultees from a variety of sectors offered their general support for the report's proposals regarding early intervention with young women being drawn towards involvement in street prostitution.
  • Whilst the benefits of the collaborative model of working were appreciated by respondents, several qualified their support by stressing that such an approach may not be straightforward to achieve and sustain.
  • The need to develop shared protocols between agencies in ways of working and the handling of client's details was a recurring theme in many responses.
  • Of the minority of respondents who commented on the proposal to separate early intervention services from "later" services, views were split between those in favour (67%) and those against (33%).
CHAPTER 7: REDUCING THE HARM

The consultation document stated:

The local plan might be expected to cover the…engagement of women already involved in street prostitution in order to provide access to harm reduction services, including free provision of condoms, needles exchange, methadone substitution for opiate users and suitable accommodation for those without stable housing provision. Accessible health services (including mental health) are essential in view of the characteristic problems of poor health and lack of access to health and dental services which come with drug misuse and prostitution.

In total, 43 respondents (69%) provided commentary of relevance to the issues raised regarding harm reduction services.

7.1 GENERAL COMMENTS

Many respondents were very much in favour of the approach proposed. The adoption of harm reduction services was hailed as an " overall must" (Indiv); with the relevant chapter contained in the report viewed as " excellent" and providing a good basis for reviewing service provision in local areas as a precursor to designing future responses (H). One respondent remarked that an approach aimed at reducing harm rather than one of zero tolerance is the best way forward ( LA). Another stressed the importance of the harm reduction model in the context of working with vulnerable groups that are "hard-to-reach" and locally or nationally stigmatised (H).

However, a minority of consultees expressed general reservations about the plans. One argued the emphasis on harm reduction appeared to be at the expense of a stronger focus on helping women to exit from the street prostitution scene ( LA). Another respondent questioned the stance taken in the report that harm reduction is not an end in itself but should be seen as a step to ultimate exiting from prostitution ( NGO). They considered this view to be misinformed and representing a morally based perspective which was not in keeping with those who saw harm reduction as an end in itself.

7.2 ACCESSING SERVICES

The issue of ease of access to services attracted most comment out of all those raised in the chapter in the report on Reducing the Harm.

Single Gateway

The notion of a single door or gateway approach which led to a wide range of services was praised by many commentators from across different sectors. This was seen as a way of linking women with different agencies without stigmatising them in the process ( LA). Training was offered by the police for the first port of contact in this arrangement, although it was commented that the costs of the development of any new courses and the provision of training would need to be addressed (Pol). The proposal was praised for offering the opportunity for access to a range of services via a, " non threatening voluntary organisation" backed up by a multi-agency service provision ( NGO).

Despite this support in principle, one respondent cautioned that, given the shortage of relevant staff, there should be doubts over the viability of the single door approach ( NGO). Another suggested that on account of the small number of clients, it may be difficult to implement this approach in some areas (H).

Improving Service Access

There was much agreement that the logistics of accessing services required attention. One consultee commented that it was crucial that ease of access to services is understood and flexibility built into the relevant services ( NGO). Another agreed on the importance of reviewing existing services for their ease of access, perhaps using quality assurance processes such as Charter Mark and a council's own assessment (eg West Lothian Assessment Model) to prompt such a review ( LA). One consultee recommended a programme of "wraparound" services that are easily accessible and include social work, welfare rights, housing support, advocacy, education and health (including mental health) ( NGO).

Respondents provided many ideas for improving service access to prostitutes. A recurring theme was that it would be beneficial for prostitutes to be involved in the design of such services and their access ( LA, 2 NGO). Another common view was that lessons should be learned from current good practice (H), such as that emerging from health and homelessness action plans ( NGO), or the existing harm reduction policy in the Edinburgh and Lothian area (H).

Various ideas were put forward for improving the flexibility of services. It was commented that service provision did not necessarily have to be building-based but could be mobile and involve outreach teams on foot or in vehicles ( NGO). The notion of outreach working was taken up by another consultee who suggested that former prostitutes would be particularly effective as outreach workers and could operate from "community flats" where advice and practical help could be provided or, " even just a cup of tea or coffee and a chat on a cold night" ( OP).

One view was that in rural areas the service may need to be more " back packing" than static in order to increase accessibility (H). In contrast, within a city environment, it was argued that services needed to be located in close proximity to the street activity with extended opening hours in order to cater for clients whose use tended to be on an unplanned and opportunistic basis ( LA). It was agreed by some that services had a responsibility to be proactive in making themselves accessible (H, NGO).

A call was made for agency staff to reflect the diversity of their clients and not exclude a specific gender. In particular, the deployment of male staff to address the needs of female prostitutes was viewed as beneficial in providing a positive role model for women, many of whom will have negative experience of males in their lives ( NGO).

7.3 DEDICATED HEALTH SERVICES

The report stated that the case is strong, on human rights grounds, to target services towards a group of people with high needs but who otherwise find it difficult to access mainstream services which others take for granted. Services tailored to the needs of women involved in prostitution can be justified on grounds of cost effectiveness when they reduce the need for further, more expensive, interventions later on, or when they limit infection spread in the wider community. There is a significant public health dimension to the provision of health care to women involved in street prostitution.

Many respondents expressed their general support for the notion of dedicated health services targeted at prostitutes. Several acknowledged the reluctance amongst some women to use generic health services, for example, as a result of previous sexual abuse and a perception that medical treatment is invasive and presents a power imbalance between the woman and the medical professional ( NGO).

Dedicated services were seen as more likely to be used by prostitutes on account of their better understanding of the women's needs ( LA) and based on past experience with dedicated services such as Base 75 in Glasgow (H, NGO).

Greater provision of women-only services was called for, with the comment that no women-only detoxification centres exist in Scotland, yet women are often targeted at these centres by future pimps/boyfriends ( NGO).

Again, the difficulties of implementing the proposals outwith city centres were raised, with one respondent commenting that some other means of providing holistic services will need to be available in more rural locations (H).

7.4 KEY WORKER PROPOSAL

The report stated that the development, where possible, of a working relationship between the woman using dedicated services and a nominated caseworker from within those services contributes to the establishment of a structure and programme to the work with the woman.

The proposal for the development of key worker relationships between agencies and clients drew much attention from respondents. Twelve consultees (19%) provided commentary of relevance with the majority view (75%) in favour of the concept.

Advantages of the key worker relationship cited by respondents included:

  • the retention of some consistency and ongoing involvement of the key worker even when the prostitute's circumstances are constantly changing
  • provision of a central point of communication between the client and a wide range of organisations

Some consultees qualified their support. For example, one stressed that there should be just one key worker per client rather than several key workers attached to different agencies ( NGO). Another suggested that a second support worker should be named in order to cover for the key worker's absences ( NGO). One comment was that although the key worker approach was desirable, it may not be sustainable given shortages of staff ( NGO).

One specific point was to make explicit that the key worker needs to accept the duty of care for the individual with whom they are working ( NGO).

Arguments against the notion of a key worker relationship were:

  • the arrangement may inadvertently restrict access to services if the worker was not available when needed (H)
  • it may be impractical given the nature of the service mobility in this area ( LA)
  • key workers are notoriously underpaid and work often without supervision. They can move quickly in and out of such work, mirroring the lack of continuity and consistency in prostitutes' lives and, possibly, reaffirming women's negative beliefs about themselves ( NGO)

7.5 NATURE OF SERVICES AVAILABLE

Many consultees documented further services for prostitutes which they considered should be added to those listed in the report. These included the provision of legal advice ( NGO, LA - especially in rural areas where there may be a dearth of female solicitors); support for previously unaddressed trauma arising from childhood sexual abuse ( NGO); help with parenting (H); support for the children of the women involved (2 NGO, LA); help from the Christian Church (Ch); alternative drug treatment options depending on location ( NGO); drug treatment which is not limited to the provision of methadone ( NGO); support for women and children in circumstances where abortion is being considered (Ch); greater emphasis on advice on personal safety ( NGO) and self defence ( NGO); support relating to psychological or mental health issues ( LA); the production and co-ordination of "Ugly Mug" or "Dodgy Punter" sheets ( NGO).

Different views emerged over the report's emphasis on the negative consequences of imprisonment for prostitutes. Whilst one respondent welcomed the wish to minimise imprisonment for such women (Pol), another argued that:

" although imprisonment is looked upon negatively within this report…it has in the past been the first opportunity where women have first had access to beneficial services" (Indiv)

7.6 RESOURCING THE PROPOSALS

Once again, concerns were raised over the need to resource the proposals adequately. Examples were provided of what were viewed as currently under-funded services such as a drop-in centre in the harbour area of Aberdeen which is restricted to opening on only one evening per week ( NGO), and a decline in funding for services for sex workers in Edinburgh ( NGO).

One respondent urged that long-term financial commitments towards implementing the proposals should not fall solely on local authorities, but contributions should be made by the police, health and voluntary sectors ( LA). An alternative viewpoint was expressed that if prostitution was designated a legitimate profession, then the taxes it raised could contribute to service provision for prostitutes ( NGO).

SUMMARY POINTS

  • The majority of respondents (69%) commented on the proposals for reducing the harm with many very much in favour of the approach proposed.
  • The notion of a single door or gateway approach to accessing services was praised by many commentators.
  • There was much agreement that the logistics of accessing services required attention, with various ideas put forward for improving service access and flexibility. In particular, recommendations were made for services to be more mobile and more proactive in increasing their accessibility.
  • There was general support for the notion of dedicated health services targeted at prostitutes.
  • Of those commenting on the proposal for a key worker relationship between agencies and clients, the majority (75%) view was in favour.
  • Concerns were raised over the need to resource the proposal adequately and split financial responsibilities between agencies.
CHAPTER 8: EXITING

The consultation document stated:

There are a number of key components in the process of exiting street prostitution. The combination of tasks being undertaken at any time, the order in which the various tasks are prioritised, and indeed whether or not the full range of tasks is applicable in all cases will depend entirely on the circumstances and needs of the particular woman. It is more than likely, however, that a woman with a history of prolonged or intensive involvement in street prostitution will have a complex range of needs, which require multiple service responses, with sustained support and advocacy. Above all there needs to be a clear "care plan" worked out with, and centred on, the woman, indicating what needs to be tackled, in what order and with what service assistance. The complexity of cases can be such that the normally accepted sequence of care interventions may not be appropriate or useful. Flexibility of care-sequencing is therefore key to successful outcomes.

Overall, 32 respondents (52%) provided commentary of relevance to the issues raised regarding exiting prostitution.

8.1 GENERAL COMMENTS

Surprise was expressed that, in view of the perceived importance of exiting prostitution, the chapter in the report was relatively short ( LA, H) with exiting given an apparently minor role ( NGO).

Whilst some respondents stated their view that the eradication of prostitution should be a goal (Ch) and that the key aim of services engaged with prostitutes should be to facilitate their exit from the scene (H), others voiced widely different opinions. One respondent argued that the report failed to recognise that women exercised an element of choice in working as a prostitute and that there could be positive outcomes for women other than exiting ( NGO). Another consultee agreed that women may choose such work because:

" sex work provides a degree of flexibility and high earning that other occupations do not have" ( NGO)

This respondent considered that adopting exiting as a main target undermined the harm reduction approach. They argued that exiting should be seen as a choice within a harm reduction approach but not as a condition of harm reduction service provision, and went on to criticise the report for what they perceived to be its emphasis on reforming women. However, another consultee saw value in combining the exiting chapter with the previous chapter on harm reduction, with harm reduction representing a continuum in which exiting constituted an integral part (H).

8.2 SUPPORTING VIEWS

Many respondents expressed much support for the recommendations relating to exiting from prostitution. It was commented that no one stand-alone agency could offer the range of services required to support women at this stage and a multi-disciplinary approach, as outlined, was needed for success ( LA, Pol, OP, NGO, Ch).

The notion of a care plan, with the woman at the centre, was given particular support by some (2 NGO, OP), and the continued involvement of a key worker or care manager endorsed ( LA). However, one note of caution was that the nominated key worker may not be able to follow a case right through to exit and the key worker arrangement may result in some women becoming inappropriately dependent on one key person. It was suggested that a seamless pathway through the range of relevant services could be facilitated by the handover at each service interface from one key worker to another ( NGO).

The recognition in the report of the need for ongoing help with drug problems and support with developing social skills was praised (Indiv). One consultee pointed out what they saw as the problem that by exiting the prostitution scene, women sometimes left behind the only support network available to them at that time ( NGO).

Several commentators suggested other service inputs, to help with exiting, to add to those outlined in paragraph 10.2 of the report. Ideas included:

  • drug and alcohol interventions (H, NGO)
  • mental health interventions ( NGO)
  • family support services ( NGO)
  • support for children of prostitutes who are trying to exit ( LA)
  • helping women to come to terms with the loss of personal relationships ( LA)
  • where appropriate, the specific involvement of a faith group (Ch)

One respondent highlighted existing rehabilitation and training programmes such as Routes Out of Prostitution and the Arrest and Referral Service as excellent examples of more proactive and holistic approaches which may provide genuine solutions to the problem over time (Pol).

8.3 A COHERENT PROCESS

The consultation document stated:

The four elements in the total process of tackling the needs of the individual caught up in prostitution (prevention, early intervention, harm reduction and exiting) are distinct activities, which should be self-standing (although prevention and early intervention can link closely together). The reason for this is that it avoids mixing women at different stages of the process - mixing continuing chaotic drug users, for example, with those who are tying to move on. If it is sensible to locate harm reduction services within the main areas of need, then to base exiting services there also would continuously draw women who are seeking to move on, back to the locality associated with drug use and prostitution.

Several respondents commented on the approach recommended. Views were mixed on the benefits of the separation of different stages in responding to prostitution. Some praised the coherent approach advocated ( NGO, LA) and considered it useful to conceptualise the service response in distinct phases ( NGO). It was agreed that there needed to be a physical shift in the provision of support services away from the location of street prostitution ( NGO, LA). However, one commentator remarked that although locating exiting services in areas of street prostitution was not sensible, the report did not appear to present an alternative to this (Indiv).

Contrasting views were in the minority. One consultee argued that in reality, stages were rarely easy to define and movement between them could change rapidly. They warned that the separation of service provision according to different stages could present a major barrier to the provision of seamless services and to helping women exit ( NGO). Based on experience in the Lothians, one respondent remarked that there had been no difficulty for a harm reduction organisation to undertake exiting work too (H). Another similar view was that in reality, the service elements involved were, " messy, poorly boundaried, iterative and difficult to untangle" ( NGO).

Linked to the issue of staged response, were comments from respondents urging that services are in place to accommodate what they saw as the frequently non-linear route out of prostitution, featuring drop-outs and relapses. Indeed, one commentator described how the length of time it could take to exit was only now being appreciated, with estimates from Sweden suggesting durations of 7 years and the Routes Out of Prostitution Team providing support for 4 years following first referral ( LA). Calls were made for services to be geared to help women re-enter the process of engagement with support services (Pol, OP), with support groups needed at a variety of levels ( NGO). Dealing with relapse was considered to be major challenge for service providers with regular ongoing communication among relevant providers required in the event of relapse (H).

Two respondents suggested the design and use of an appropriate assessment tool which may help in assessing risk at the exiting stage ( LA, NGO). In particular, the multi-agency assessment panel paradigm adopted by Shelter and Crisis was described as, " eminently transferable to this field of work" ( NGO).

8.4 FUNDING

Calls were made for adequate funding to support the proposals. A common view emerged from amongst a few consultees that the government should take responsibility for funding the exiting proposals ( LA, 2 NGO) with concern about the level of responsibility placed on local authorities without proper resourcing ( LA). A view from a Faith group was that funding should be prioritised for services promoting exiting rather than organisations which facilitate prostitution (Ch).

SUMMARY POINTS

  • There were mixed views on whether exiting should be considered as a main target in addressing prostitution or whether more emphasis should be placed on harm reduction as a target.
  • Respondents agreed that no one stand-alone agency could offer the range of services required to support women at the stage of exiting from prostitution.
  • The notion of a care plan with the woman at the centre supported by a key worker or care manager was endorsed.
  • Views were mixed on the Group's proposals to separate the different stages of response to prostitution. The majority view was that treating them as separate stages was beneficial. The minority view was that in reality the stages could rarely be segregated and any artificial distinctions could serve to create barriers to the seamless provision of services.
  • Several respondents urged that services be ready to respond to the typically non-linear routes out of prostitution experienced by many women.
  • Calls were made for adequate funding to support the proposals with a few consultees suggesting that the government take responsibility for funding the exiting proposals.
CHAPTER 9: JUSTICE ISSUES

The consultation document stated:

The law remains the key means to ensure continued protection from exploitation through prostitution to vulnerable groups, including young people and vulnerable adult women. Effective enforcement of these aspects of the law should be a priority in the local plan.

The law should be reviewed with regard to soliciting. The changes would seek to ensure that the law should:

  • not criminalise on a moral basis;
  • address the imbalance between men and women arising from the present emphasis on the person soliciting, without reference to the potential purchaser of sexual services;
  • seek to reduce stigma which attaches disproportionately to the person soliciting as against the potential purchaser;
  • minimise the use of imprisonment for women involved in prostitution;
  • ensure continued protection to vulnerable groups, including young people and vulnerable adult men and women, from exploitation;
  • provide effective protection to the general public from offensive behaviour;
  • avoid any tendency to increase risk to vulnerable people and to communities through unplanned displacement; and
  • provide a constructive legal framework to support the achievement of broader strategic obligations for tackling prostitution in Scotland.

The Group concluded that the law should be changed to repeal the criminalisation of soliciting per se, and replace this with an offence targeting offensive behaviour or conduct arising from a prostitution related sexual transaction - whether caused by purchaser or seller, The Group considered 3 options for taking this forward.

On any of the 3 options, the approach would obviate the need for specific legislative action regarding "kerb crawling" - which could be policed on a basis of public offence. It would also amend the case for "managed zones" as a possible useful local strategy for focusing service delivery and managing nuisance arising from street prostitution. This would change from a case based on discretionary suspension of the criminal law to one which is within the law and can be considered and used in the right circumstances as part of the agreed local strategy.

The changes to law proposed by the Group attracted by far the largest volume of commentary compared with the other issues contained in the consultation document. Overall, 95% of respondents addressed aspects of the proposals on justice.

9.1 GENERAL SUPPORT FOR REVIEWING THE LAW

A commonly expressed view was to agree with the need to review the existing law relating to soliciting. Respondents commented that the current law did not meet contemporary needs and values ( LA, NGO), was neither simple nor understood (Pol), was outdated (Pol), and needed to be simplified and rebalanced (H). One respondent expressed their view thus:

" the current legislation is anachronistic, unsatisfactory, inequitable and in places unenforceable" ( NGO)

It was argued that the current legislation criminalised women inappropriately, on a moral basis ( LA, NGO). (Although a dissenting voice emphasised the view that the report appeared too "timid" in avoiding taking the moral stance that the respondent perceived was needed (Ch).) Another consultee urged that a new legal framework be developed to protect, not penalise, women ( NGO).

Whilst agreeing broadly that changes were required, several consultees were more specific in advising that much care should be taken in the development of any new legislation relating to this field. One respondent called for new laws which reflected current research, societal values and were effective in changing behaviour as in punishing offenders ( NGO). Others stressed that new legislation would need to balance the interests and safety of the services provided for prostitutes, with those of the local community too (Pol, OP).

A few commentators emphasised their support for a review of the law but within the context of parallel supporting mechanisms such as robust action against drug dealers and intensive help for people with substance addictions ( NGO), and a promotion of the Community Planning approach to tackle the problem holistically (H).

In contrast to these majority views, however, were those of a small minority of consultees representing Church groups, who expressed concern that repealing Section 46 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, as proposed by the Group, would send out the wrong signal to the public, would leave communities less secure, and would not prohibit prostitution, which in their view was needed.

9.2 REPLACEMENT OF CRIMINALISTION OF SOLICITING WITH OFFENCE TARGETING OFFENSIVE BEHAVIOUR

The consultation document and response form were not specifically designed to capture quantitative information by, for example, asking closed questions regarding the proposed changes. In many instances, it was not clear from responses whether the consultee firmly supported or was against particular aspects of the proposals. For example, some respondents tended to focus on their reservations about certain elements of the plans but their overall support or disagreement was difficult to discern. Against this background, an attempt was made to ascertain a broad gauge of overall mood towards the plan to replace the criminalisation of soliciting with a new offence targeting offensive behaviour. Amongst the 27 responses which provided the clearest indication of opinion, 10 (37%) were obviously in favour of the proposals, 10 (37%) were against, and the remaining 7 (26%) saw some merit in the recommendations but also has some reservations about certain aspects.

Comments in Favour of Proposals

Many respondents stated simply that they endorsed the proposals. Amongst their reasoning, was what was seen as the sense in removing moral judgement from the legal framework and replacing this with a focus on disruption of the peace ( NGO); and subjecting the seller and purchaser of sex to the same laws ( NGO, H). One commentator welcomed the proposed new offence as creating a foundation on which the other proposals in the report could be rolled out ( LA). Another commented:

" this represents a more civilised shift away from personal and gender-biased blame to social perceptions of the activity and the joint responsibility for such activity by both purchaser and provider" ( LA)

Comments Against the Proposals

Those against the proposals tended to provide more commentary to support their stance. One consultee argued that the proposals gave the appearance of making prostitution legal where it was, " without attendant alarm, offence or embarrassment" (Pol). This respondent emphasised that they did not support the legislation of prostitution on what they saw as the grounds of public safety and the safety of those involved.

Another view was that basing legislation around " offensive behaviour" raised questions of interpretation of what this constituted (2 NGO). One respondent who considered the proposed offence to be " undesirable and unworkable" asked who would decide if the behaviour of the seller or buyer had been offensive and what criteria would be used ( NGO)?

Others commented that the proposals would still reflect the view that the women's behaviour was the problem ( LA). They were seen as reactive ( NGO), and would not act as a deterrent ( NGO). One consultee argued that the proposals appeared to legalise soliciting without applying sanctions against buyers which would inevitably lead to an increase in prostitution, sexual abuse and perhaps even people trafficking (Indiv). Another remarked that they were not in favour of decriminalisation of prostitution without some other means to tackle the problem ( LA).

A recurring theme was the view that the proposed change in law did not address the fundamental problem of violence against women. Typical comments were that prostitution constituted violence against women (2 NGO) and was offensive whether carried out quietly or not ( NGO). It was stressed that the Group should not lose sight of the main aim of reduction in the numbers of women involved (Ch, H). One respondent emphasised their total rejection of the view of prostitution as work which merely required legalising and regulating (H). Another stated that they did not support any law which regards prostitution as a " lawful transaction" (Ch). One consultee argued that prostitution should be dealt with within a harm/violence paradigm rather than an obscenity/indecency context as proposed ( NGO). The views of one respondent appeared to sum up those of many:

" we do not believe these aims (those of the Group) can be achieved by repealing section 46 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982……..any policy that directly or indirectly accepts the existence of prostitution will both normalise and give legitimacy to an activity that abuses and degrades women and damages local communities…we must not therefore make it easier for prostitutes and those who use them by removing the criminal sanctions on prostitution-related activities" (Ch)

Other Reservations about the Proposals

Several respondents were broadly supportive of the proposals but had some reservations. What was seen as the subjective nature of the offence which rested on "causing offence" was raised repeatedly as a problem. It was proposed that the words "likely to" should be inserted before "cause fear, alarm or offence" in order to remove some of the perceived subjectivity and facilitate the police in their progression of cases ( NGO).

It was suggested that a fourth objective test of "nuisance" be added to those of "fear, alarm or offence" to be consistent with the concerns most commonly raised by complainants (3 Pol, OP, LA, NGO). The focus on the public having to report the alleged offence was highlighted as a concern by some, who commented that people may be reluctant to provide statements to the effect that they had suffered alarm, distress and/or embarrassment. One suggestion was that perhaps the law should allow for the evidence of police officers' observations to suffice in achieving a conviction (Pol, OP, LA, NGO).

Finally, one consultee expressed concern that there may be inconsistency in enforcement after the new offence is implemented ( NGO). They argued that there needed to be a degree of consistency between areas in the setting of related policing priorities.

9.3 VIEWS ON OPTIONS FOR CHANGING EMPHASIS OF LAW

The consultation document stated:

"….if it is accepted that the emphasis of law should be dealing with the behaviour termed "soliciting" and its associated features as a criminal offence only if alarm or offence can be shown to have been caused by it, then three options are worthy of consideration. All rely on repeal of Section 46 which simply criminalises the act of "soliciting".

Option 1 would repeal Section 46 and rely on Breach of the Peace, with its objective test of whether the behaviour would cause alarm, offence or embarrassment to a reasonable person.

Option 2 would create a new offence based on selling or purchasing sexual engagement in a way which causes alarm, offence or embarrassment to the wider public. This would require to be initiated through a complaint that a member or members of the public have been offended. The court may then introduce an objective consideration of whether, objectively, it was reasonable in the circumstances, for them to have offended.

Option 3 would follow the Scottish Law Commission codification route, which retains the penalisation of soliciting and adds the penalisation of the purchaser, but only if, by objective tests, fear, alarm or offence can be demonstrated.

Eleven respondents (18%) provided specific commentary relating to the 3 options set out. Of these, 6 showed a preference for option 3, and 2 for option 1. The remaining 3 respondents did not provide an indication of one clear option.

Of those supporting option 3, one view was that there should not be decriminalisation, legalisation or regulation of prostitution in Scotland (Pol). Another respondent agreed that option 3 was preferable from a " policing perspective" ( NGO), and had the advantage of addressing both the selling and purchasing of sex (2 NGO). Again however, concerns were voiced regarding the onus being on the public in raising a complaint and the perceived subjectivity of the objective tests ( NGO).

An argument in favour of option 1 was that this was the only option that focused solely on behaviour and applied equally not only to sex workers and their clients, but also to other members of the public who harass or intimidate sex workers ( NGO). Another view was that there was much merit in identifying the offence in terms of breach of the peace and not prostitution ( NGO).

A few consultees simply agreed that the options warranted more consideration (Pol, NGO).

9.4 ADDRESSING BUYING AND SELLING BEHAVIOURS

The proposal that the law accommodate the penalising of the purchaser of sex in addition to the seller was the subject of comment from a relatively large proportion of respondents. In particular, several consultees commented on the Swedish approach in which the purchase of (but not the sale of) sex is illegal, from which it follows that prostitution can not be legal.

A recurring comment was that the Group had been overly dismissive of idea of transplanting the Swedish approach to the Scottish scene. Respondents stated that they did not accept that the differences between the Swedish and Scottish contexts outlined in the report were reasons not to consider the model for Scotland ( NGO), and that there were similarities between the 2 jurisdictions in terms of, for example, the exacerbating problem of illegal immigrants ( LA). Three consultees argued that further exploration of the Swedish approach should be carried out (Indiv, 2 NGO), with the model perceived as in keeping with the growing unacceptability of domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women in Scotland ( NGO). One consultee commented on what they perceived to be a major reduction in prostitution in Sweden since the law had been introduced ( LA). Another identified the merits of the approach as addressing the demand for sexual services whilst responding to the needs of vulnerable women (Ch). It was remarked that, had the Group commenced their investigations with first principles, they would have been led inevitably to the Swedish approach (Indiv).

Some respondents felt that the proposals did not go far enough in the provision of legal sanctions against the purchaser of sex (Ch, 3 NGO, H) and that men, as buyers, were relatively invisible in the proposals ( LA). The perceived lack of current legal sanctions against men who exploit women was seen as a major barrier to progress and something that required urgent attention ( LA). It was remarked that until the law on the purchase of sex is changed the demand will continue to be supplied (2 NGO). One respondent considered that under the Group's proposals, purchasers could, in theory, be charged with an offence, but in reality, it would not work like this as the police would still find it easier to charge the women involved ( NGO). It was argued that an offence that specifically penalises the purchaser should therefore be introduced ( LA).

It was commented that the legal route to addressing men's behaviour should not be viewed as an alternative to a social policy approach, but rather seem as complementary ( NGO). One respondent stressed their view that social policy alone could not achieve a reduction in men's buying behaviour, and should be reinforced by a recognition of buying as a criminal act (Indiv). It was suggested that the latter approach would add clarity and facilitate related public education campaigns (Indiv). One word of caution was expressed that a focus on "punters" could perhaps have a displacement effect and place women at more risk of harm ( NGO).

One consultee recommended further exploration of appropriate programmes aimed at changing the purchaser's behaviour and perceptions ( NGO). Others described their current involvement in supporting initiatives to this end (2H) or commented on the dearth of research in this field ( NGO).

Gender Neutrality

Many respondents endorsed the report's aim of addressing the perceived gender imbalance in the way prostitution is dealt with under current legislation. However, there were differences in opinion on whether the proposal for gender-neutral approaches under the new offence would actually result in equality of treatment between men and women.

For some, the proposal to adopt gender-neutral approaches demonstrated a failure to understand the difference between the sexes in the context of prostitution, which, they argued, demanded separate responses to each gender rather than one combined solution ( NGO). Another respondent argued that the view that the criminal law should be gender-neutral demonstrated a confused understanding of gender-neutrality in which the inequality in the relationship between the seller and the buyer can only be addressed by targeting the latter with legal sanctions (Indiv). It was argued that prostitution is not gender-neutral and so the desire to achieve gender-neutral legislation is misplaced ( NGO). Finally, one consultee held the view that implementing legislation which gives equal balance to any offensive behaviour, whether caused by the purchaser or seller, neutralises the exploitation of vulnerable women by abusive men and should not be supported since the criminal justice system is already heavily weighted against the interests of women and children who have been abused ( NGO).

Set against these strongly held views, were those of many consultees who stated simply that, in their opinion, sellers and buyers were equally culpable in prostitution (H, NGO), and both should be held equally to account for their behaviour (2Pol, LA) under a gender-neutral system ( NGO).

Other Comments

It was stressed that adults involved in sexually abusing children and young people would require a different legal framework to address their offending ( NGO).

A few consultees called for the law to penalise explicitly those associated with promoting prostitution such as pimps (2Ch, NGO) and those advertising sexual services (Ch).

9.5 KERB CRAWLING

The consultation document stated that as the proposed new offence could address the public offence aspect of kerb crawling there would be no additional requirement to create a specific offence of kerb crawling (as has been done in England and Wales).

Of the 13 (21%) respondents who expressed a view specifically on the issue of kerb crawling legislation, 6 (46%) argued that there should be an offence relating to kerb crawling, 5 (38%) agreed with the Group's view that there would be no additional requirement to create a specific offence of kerb crawling, and the remaining 2 (15%) respondents did not express a clear opinion one way or the other.

Arguments in favour of the introduction of specific legislation against kerb crawling included the desire for compatibility with England and Wales ( NGO) and the need to bear down robustly on the demand side of prostitution ( NGO).

Those seeing no need for a new offence of kerb crawling argued that legislation had not proved to be effective elsewhere ( NGO), and expressed concern that, if kerb crawling legislation were to be introduced in Scotland, the purchasing of services may become more invisible, placing women in more danger of harm ( NGO). It was argued that the new public offence would render a specific kerb crawling offence unnecessary ( LA). One view emerging from women who are involved in the prostitution scene was that kerb crawling should not be made illegal as this could frighten men away and reduce trade ( NGO).

Concern was expressed that introducing or enforcing legislation relating to kerb crawling inconsistently between different areas could serve to displace activities between different locations (Pol, OP).

9.6 SENTENCING OFFENDERS

The consultation document stated that the present Scots law can be criticised for adopting a punitive approach to prostitution which tends to exacerbate the woman's circumstances rather than providing a platform for amelioration and constructive work to find a route out of prostitution.

Respondents expressed general support for this view. Punitive approaches were seen to be ineffective and likely to displace or " reconfigure the problem" ( LA). A recurring comment was to welcome the minimising of use of imprisonment for prostitutes (2 NGO, LA, Pol).

One consultee considered that rehabilitation approaches would be preferable to the imposition of fines in dealing with prostitutes ( NGO). However, another queried the use of rehabilitation approaches by asking for clarification on what exactly is the offence or illness which has led to a need for the prostitute to be rehabilitated ( NGO)?

Others also raised concerns over the use of fines for prostitutes. Serving time in prison for fine default was seen as unconstructive ( LA, Indiv), with one respondent urging that all options should be exhausted before sending a prostitute to prison for default ( LA). The Supervised Attendance Order was welcomed as an alternative to prison for fine default ( LA). A call was made for extended use of diversion from prosecution for prostitutes ( LA).

Alternative views were provided by a few respondents who pointed out that, ironically:

" accesses to some services highlighted in the report have historically only really been offered or maximised after the person concerned has been given a custodial sentence" (Indiv)

and in a similar vein:

" In support of placing women working in prostitution within the criminal justice system, it affords them the opportunity to access Arrest Referral Schemes, such as that currently being piloted by Strathclyde Police, and "Time Out" which provides a catalogue of health and social services for women who have become involved in the criminal justice system in Glasgow" (Pol)

The Use of Antisocial Behaviour Orders ( ASBOs)

The consultation document stated that the Group was concerned about the effectiveness of the use of ASBOs in cases involving women involved in street prostitution (especially if it is not connected to a package of suitable services and supports) and are convinced that this needs to be seen as a strategy of last resort where other approaches fail.

In total 17 (27%) respondents expressed a view on the use of ASBOs as a sanction for women involved in prostitution. A significant majority (67%) were against the use of ASBOs in this context. Two respondents (11%) argued that ASBOs were not without merit within the framework of a broad package of enforcement and support measures (Pol, OP). Four consultees (22%) argued for their use only with qualification: only after full consultation with partner agencies and with ASBOs constituting part of an overarching strategy for a particular area (Pol); only if it is clear that evaluation of their use takes place ( NGO); only as a last resort (2 NGO).

Arguments against the use of ASBOs in cases involving women associated with street prostitution were:

  • could displace the problem, rendering women more isolated and vulnerable ( NGO)
  • could cause women to go "underground" ( NGO)
  • if breached this would result in imprisonment ( NGO)
  • could result in women moving more quickly through the criminal justice system and increasing their risk of imprisonment (2 LA)
  • could result in women being over-penalised ( LA)
  • survival behaviour should be recognised in the penalties which prostitution related activities attract ( LA)
  • of little benefit to those trying to exit prostitution ( NGO)
  • increases the imbalance between women and men and should not be used even as a last resort ( NGO)

One respondent expressed their view strongly:

" We believe the courts should be encouraged never to simply "punish" those convicted of soliciting. Any legal and civic input should be part of the solution and not exacerbating the problem. Therefore, it could be argued that liberal use of ASBOs against individual prostitutes is tantamount to both moral and civic cowardice" (Ch)

The potential for use of ASBOs in relation to men involved in prostitution was mooted by a few consultees. One recommended use in circumstances where men were a threat or a danger to women ( NGO). Another explained, however, that although appearing a potentially attractive sanction to address kerb crawling, individuals who kerb crawl do not actually meet any of the criteria required to trigger use of an ASBO ( LA). One view was that ASBOs could be used for people who drive past prostitutes shouting abuse ( NGO).

9.7 MANAGED ZONES

The consultation document described how a Bill had been introduced twice to the Scottish Parliament to enable local authorities to designate areas within their borders as "prostitution tolerance zones". It proposed to give local authorities the power to designate "tolerance zones" within which soliciting, loitering or importuning by prostitutes for the purposes of prostitution would not be an offence under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. It provided for consultation by the local authority with various public bodies, voluntary bodies, local residents and business, prior to establishing a zone.

The Group intends that by adopting the policy, strategy, service and legislative adjustments outlined in their report, consideration could move forward from narrow debate on the merits and demerits of an approach based on managed "zones". They argue that placing the consideration of whether introduction of a managed location for street prostitution will be locally helpful or not within the need to draw up a local plan for a coherent response to street prostitution will result in comprehensive examination of the relevant issues.

The Group argue that the setting up of a designated area could be seen as unnecessary if the act of soliciting is not itself against the law because it is not necessary to create an area of immunity from prosecution for soliciting. However, in terms of the process of having a strategy to tackle prostitution, facilitate routes out, and reduce nuisance to others, it may well be in the best interests of a local authority to focus the conduct of street based prostitution into specific locations. Under this approach, there would be no element of selective non-application of the law.

Overall, 30 (48%) respondents commented specifically on the notion of managed zones within the Scottish context. Comments tended to focus on the pros and cons of designating zones for prostitution, rather than the point highlighted in the Group's report that deploying such zones within the framework of the proposed new offence would remove the need to operate outside the law. The majority view (60%) was that managed zones should not be introduced in Scotland. A minority (20%) of those who commented were in favour of managed zones in Scotland. The remaining 20% of relevant consultees provided general commentary rather than a specific view.

Arguments against Managed Zones

A recurring comment was that zones contributed to the "normalisation" of prostitution (2 NGO, LA, Ch). One consultee expressed their view thus:

" they…contribute to the normalisation and public acceptance of an activity, which we believe is utterly unacceptable and intolerable" ( LA)

Another recurring concern was that such zones would attract prostitutes from other areas (Pol), or those associated with prostitution such as pimps, thieves, drug dealers and even people traffickers (Pol, OP, H). It was remarked that in Holland and Sweden, criminals has taken over certain managed zone localities (Pol, OP, NGO).

Many consultees considered that the establishment of managed zones would facilitate women's entry to prostitution and serve to hamper their exit. One comment was that it would become an, " easier career choice" ( NGO); another that efforts should be made instead to protect women's health by preventing their involvement and supporting their exit (H).

Several respondents argued that rather than attracting prostitutes to the zone, its establishment would have the effect of displacing the problem in order that the clients of prostitutes could avoid being subjected to any scrutiny (2 NGO, LA, H). This was seen as placing women in more danger and serving to break any regular contact they may have had with support services available (H).

Many consultees remarked that previous evidence demonstrated the ineffectiveness of managed zones in reducing violence and prostitution (Ch, 2 NGO, 2H, 2 LA). Others argued that such zones did little to address the fundamental problems such as violence against women and the stigma attached to prostitution, (2Ch, NGO, LA). Indeed, one comment was that:

" managed zones, whilst affording some protection to women also corral them into acceptable areas confirming the stigma that these women are different and unacceptable" ( NGO)

A common theme was that managed zones were damaging to the local community. One perception was that the notion ran contrary to the Group's objective of protecting residential and commercial communities from the effects of soliciting and prostitution (Pol, OP). It was considered that such zones would encourage kerb crawling and harassment of local residents (H) and could compromise the safety of women living and/or working in the designated area ( NGO, H). Consultees argued that litter and debris could increase in managed zones (H), the value of property could fall and local businesses could suffer (H). It was envisaged that there could be severe problems in agreeing with local residents and others where to site a designated zone (2 NGO, LA).

A view from 2 police organisations was that there may be particular implications for the police in response to especial arrangements required for policing managed zones. One local authority respondent commented that the Group's report seemed to place the onus of responsibility on local authorities to implement a managed process response to prostitution. However, " absence of an appropriate legal framework and enabling powers will make this approach difficult to implement" ( LA).

Arguments in Favour of Managed Zones

Respondents in favour of managed zones provided a range of arguments to support their view:

  • useful for the delivery of services ( NGO, Pol, Ch)
  • increases safety of women (4 NGO)
  • reduces the nuisance element for local communities ( NGO)
  • reduces the level of "hassle" women experience from the police ( NGO)
  • easier for experienced prostitutes to identify those new on the scene and therefore aid early intervention (H)
  • benefits to local communities, women and service delivery (H)
  • good for business - easier for buyers to find prostitutes ( NGO)

Other Comments on Managed Zones

The Group advocated leaving the decision on the establishment of managed zones to those involved in developing the local implementation plan. This raised comment from a few consultees who expressed concern that direction on such a key issue had not been given at a national level (H), and differences in local priorities may lead to inconsistencies between areas (H, Ch), perhaps shifting the problem from one location to another ( LA).

One respondent argued for a consideration of the placing on a statutory basis the consultation with local communities and businesses on managed zones (Pol). Another commented that to implement the aspect of the local plan advocated by the Group (paragraph 6.5 of the report) which states that street based soliciting should be responded to in a way which makes and sustains service engagement but does not lead to unacceptable levels of nuisance and risk to the wider community, would need a lot of work and consideration. For example, what did " unacceptable levels of nuisance" mean ( NGO)?

One consultee stated that they did not accept the Group's view that local consultations on managed zones in Liverpool produced " adverse outcomes", stressing that the related consultation report showed that 85% of people consulted were in favour of a managed zone ( NGO).

Finally, some queries were raised regarding the operational aspects of managed zones. Two respondents asked who would maintain the zones ( NGO, H). Others asked for clarification on the sanctions which could be applied to those offending within the zones (Ch, H). A call was made for guidelines on how to balance the safety of women with maintaining the anonymity of their clients ( NGO)

SUMMARY POINTS

  • The proposals to change the law attracted commentary from 95% of respondents.
  • Many respondents expressed their agreement that the current law relating to prostitution was outdated and needed to be reviewed.
  • There were mixed views regarding the Expert Group's proposal to replace the criminalisation of soliciting with a new offence targeting offensive behaviour. Of the responses which provided a clear indication of opinion, 37% were in favour, 37% were against, and 26% saw some merit in the recommendations but also held some reservations about certain aspects.
  • Several respondents were concerned that the change in law proposed would not address what was seen as the fundamental problem of violence against women and would not reduce the numbers of those involved in prostitution. Another key concern was what was viewed as the relatively subjective nature of the terms of the proposed new offence.
  • Of the 18% of respondents who commented on the 3 options for legal change presented in the report, the option most commonly preferred was that of following the Scottish Law Commission's codification route.
  • A recurring theme was to recommend that the Group reconsider the transferability of the Swedish approach of prohibiting the buying of sex, to the Scottish context.
  • A current imbalance in the treatment of buyers and sellers of sex in Scotland was acknowledged, with many respondents endorsing the report's aim of addressing this.
  • There were differences in opinion on whether the proposal for gender-neutral approaches under the proposed offence would actually result in equality of treatment between men and women.
  • Of the respondents who expressed a view on kerb crawling, 46% argued that there should be an offence relating to kerb crawling, 38% agreed with the Group's view that, under their proposals, there would be no additional requirement to create a specific offence of kerb crawling, and 15% respondents did not express a clear opinion one way or other.
  • There was general support for the Group's criticism of punitive approaches to address women involved in prostitution.
  • Of those who expressed a view on the use of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders as a sanction for women involved in prostitution, 67% were against their use in this context.
  • Of the respondents who commented specifically on the notion of managed zones for prostitution, the majority view (60%) was that these should not be introduced in Scotland. Twenty per cent were in favour of such zones in Scotland, whilst the remaining 20% provided more general commentary rather than a specific view.