4/2/11 – UKNSWP CONFERENCE “PREVENTING VIOLENCE, PROTECTING SEX WORKERS” – STRATEGIES TO PROTECT THE EXCLUDED
The annual UK Network of Sex Work Projects conference yesterday heard from Deputy Chief Constable Simon Byrne, of Greater Manchester Police and the ACPO Lead on Prostitution & Sexual Exploitation, about how the safety and protection of sex workers must be a key part of policing sex work and how police engagement in "Ugly Mugs" schemes and adopting a formal policy of treating crimes against sex workers as hate crime are tangible ways police forces can proactively begin to address crimes against sex workers.
Baroness Vivienne Stern, Cross Bench Peer in the House of Lords and author of the Stern review into the treatment of rape complaints, questioned the benefits of the current legal framework, speaking eloquently about the need to examine the failure of the legal system in preventing violence against people who sell sex and to give them protection and equal access to justice as a right.
The conference also heard from a range of UKNSWP member projects about their frontline work taking effective action to tackle violence and empower people who sell sex, including:
* UK-wide Ugly Mugs, a UKNSWP initiative supported by Simon Byrne, National Policing Improvement Agency, CEOP, Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Survivors Trust, Rape Crisis, Terence Higgins Trust and the International Union of Sex Workers, amongst others. The scheme would enable the sharing of information about violent offenders, robbers and others who commit crimes against people in the sex industry. The scheme would dramatically increase the number of violent offenders who are prosecuted and it is police opinion that more prosecutions would succeed.
* Terrence Higgins Trust and the Working Mens’ Project (St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington) on the under-reporting of rape and sexual assault by men who sell sex.
* Dr Nick Mai of London Metropolitan University on the complex relationships that underpin migration and exploitation.
* Georgina Perry from Open Doors, a service which covers three of the host boroughs for the 2012 Games, described the harmful impact of increased enforcement in the run up to the Games and her service’ efforts to encourage migrant sex workers to report crimes against them to the police, access support for victims of sexual offences and other crime and make them aware that they are entitled to the protection of the law via a multi-lingual DVD; one Newham sex worker, having contacted the police to avert a violent incident, was told by uniformed officers “don’t bother to call again”.
* Luan Grugeon on the holistic service provisions of Drugs Action in Aberdeen with drug using street sex workers with a range of health and social care needs.
Finally Dr Maggie O’Neill looked at issues of sex work , violence and citizenship and described lessons from Canada, where legal review has overturned the criminalisation of people who sell sex, valuing their safety over ineffective laws that attempted to treat sex work as only a nuisance, and failed even to solve the problems associated with prostitution on those terms.