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Criminal Law: Police chief supports decriminalising brothels

A senior police officer of Greater Manchester Police has announced his support for decriminalising brothels in an attempt to solve the problems related to prostitution.

Deputy Chief Constable Simon Byrne, soon to be assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, believes that the laws concerning prostitution must change to help the women involved and also the neighbourhoods which suffer as a result of brothels.

Mr Byrne, writing on the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) blog, claimed that while decriminalising and regulating brothels is "no perfect solution", it had been successful in other countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

He wrote: "There is a great amount of academic research available, much of which supports the view that an alternative approach is needed.

"An example would be the decriminalisation and regulation of brothels in Australia and New Zealand, not an answer to all of the related issues but certainly a solution to some...

"More of those involved in sex work [there] can now access health services with ease, whilst maintaining more personal security.

"An approach like this would help to bridge the gap between tackling neighbourhood nuisance and the exploitation of sex workers by organised criminals and gangs."

Mr Byrne acknowledged that, in order to work, appropriate legislation would need to be created and then partnerships would need to be formed to ensure that victimised individuals and communities would receive support.

The Home Office responded to Mr Byrne: "Current laws to protect individuals and communities from the harm of prostitution have a clear focus on tackling exploitation.

"At the same time the law on sexual and violent crime is unequivocal, regardless of whether the victim is involved in prostitution.

"We believe local agencies know how to best respond to the needs of their particular communities and the most effective responses are therefore developed at local level."

Currently in the UK, prostitution is not a crime. But running a brothel, soliciting in public, kerb crawling, pimping and pandering are all criminal offences. The penalty is imprisonment for three months for a first offence, and six months for repeat offences. If tried in a Crown Court, the maximum sentence can be seven years' imprisonment.

Related links:
Read more on the story (BBC)
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