Bad Girls or Bad Laws?
Posted Monday, 2 February 2009 at 13:03
Tomorrow is the first sitting of the committee stage of the Police and Crime Bill.
Part two of the Bill deals with prostitution.
The Government's intention in drafting this section of the Bill is laudable; however, what we are being presented with will not achieve the stated objectives in any way, and will subject many needy and vulnerable women, to a greater level of danger than that which they already face, every day.
I would like to table an amendment to remove much of part two clause by clause; however, that's known as a wrecking amendment and given the overall intention I don't feel such an action would be within the spirit of the Bill.
There is much however which is deeply flawed. I hope that as a result of the evidence sessions we heard last week, and the arguments which will be put forward at committee stage, the Minister may take much of part two back to the drawing board.
One provision I will speaking against is clause 20, a closure order.
This clause will give Police the power to close down a brothel for three months.
I'm sure the first reaction of many may be 'good', however it doesn't take too much thought to realise the consequence of this.
The girls will still work. They will move from the contained safety of numbers indoors, out onto the danger of the streets.
Prostitution has been with us since time began. The attitude of many members of the public I have spoken to has been one of concern regarding health issues, public order and safety. No one wants to see another Ipswich.
Legislation needs to focus on the controlled, pimped and trafficked girls, who are in a life of prostitution against their will; and it's these girls, and boys, that our legislation and efforts should be targeted towards assisting. There is an attempt in the Bill to do this; however, the wording 'controlled for gain' is ambiguous. The maid and diary keeper would fall into this category. There is a reluctance within the Bill to acknowledge the role of the voluntary sector, the church, nurses and doctors who work within this sector - and a lack of imagination born as a result of mistrust in anything, or anyone other than the State, to deal with a problem as morally and socially tricky as that of prostitution.
Clause 16 makes provision for a prostitute to attend three official meeting with an as yet unnamed undefined person for vague reasons. If they do not attend they will be fined/imprisoned. It's the first time I have seen such loose wording in Bill
All the evidence we have heard is that to coerce the girls to forcibly attend such meetings simply won't work and therefore they will face criminalisation as a result.
Those who could have been helped out of a life of prostitution and into regular employment will find it difficult as they will have a criminal record which will last a lifetime.
A fine will mean more time on the streets and more punters in order to pay the fine.
Much of part two is nonsense, but actually, it's worse than that.
There are very few jobs whereby death is an occupational hazard. Prostitutes deal with the consequence of disease every day.
I can't think anyone believes we should have prostitutes on the streets in preference to indoors.
For those on the streets the danger of disease is secondary to that of personal safety.
The Ipswich murders were shocking and something we should learn from and not want to see repeated. I cannot support any clause which exposes or puts the life of a prostitute in further danger, or prevents any who wish to move away from one life to another, by hanging the label of criminal around her neck.
If this is a problem we need to deal with, particularly with regard to trafficking, then it seems to me the people we should be talking to are the prostitutes themselves.
I have been doing just that in order to inform my argument. If this Bill goes through in its present form, and I ever hear about the murder or otherwise of a prostitute at some stage following its inclusion on the statute book, I need to know that I did all I could do to keep girls safe, and indoors, and did nothing to support pushing them back out onto the streets.
I will blog again on this Bill later in the week as there is so much to refute!
Nadine Dorries MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
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