Conference passes sex work motion unamended

The first policy debate of the Conference has taken place with Conference overwhelmingly backing a policy paper which decriminalises sex work and provides workers with support which will improve their health and make them safer. An amendment which would have undermined the motion by calling for kerb-crawling convictions to be maintained was defeated. Joe Otten was right in his summation to talk about sexual harassment but as Charlotte Cane reminded conference in her summation, the evidence was that criminalising clients made sex workers less safe.

Here’s a flavour of the debate:

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Simon mcgrath 18th Mar '17 - 11:46am

    Shameful that conf decided that men convicted of kerb crawling should be pardoned. wilful distortion of the anendment by some of the speAkers.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Mar '17 - 1:31pm

    There’s no good options on sex work. Difficult topic, but I agree the priority needs to be protecting the women.

  • Decriminalise but regulate. Its sordid but I’d rather have it out in the open, out of sight out of mind may be the current policy but I’d rather it wasn’t. Same principles should be applied to many drugs, leaving the law to crush the remaining dealers of drugs that inflict the most harm.

  • Rebecca Mott 19th Mar '17 - 12:35am

    I write as exited prostituted woman, and I highly angered and saddened by your rejection of the Nordic Approach. You have chosen to back a harm reduction system, which plays into the hands of sex trade profiteers and punters, and abandon the human rights of the prostituted. The best route to full human rights and safety for the prostituted is to put the focus of the those cause the harms – that is the men who make the chose to buy another human for his sexual wants, and those who profiteers from that consumption. It is punters and sex trade profiteers are the cause and root of all the violence done to the prostituted. That is why it is vital to make the buying and selling of the punters and sex trade illegal – and decriminalising the prostituted with long-term holistic exiting programme, which must include access to work, safe housing, right to move area if needed, and specialist long-term counselling. None of this is deemed important in harm reduction policy. Harm reduction is just a band-aid on a cut throat.

  • Toby Keynes 19th Mar '17 - 6:45pm

    I voted for the motion and against the amendment, and I believe Conference was right to reject the amendment. But I’m sorry it has been interpreted as a wrecking amendment.
    Past conviction for curb crawling will very often have been the result of harrassing behaviour, rather than consensual contacts between sex workers and would-be clients. Even after harrassment became a punishable offence, the police may have chosen to seek a conviction for kerb crawling because it would have been much easier to prove.
    Quashing these convictions, as the motion does, may seem highly perverse; and it does send an unfortunate message. Hence the amendment.
    But, equally, many of these offences will have been for kerb-crawling that was consensual on both sides: would-be clients approaching sex workers.
    The amendment would have caught up both groups in its net, and that was its fatal flaw.
    A fundamental principle of British justice is that nobody should be found guilty unless there is a high level of certainty that they were guilty of the offence. If you have no way of telling whether a conviction for kerb-crawling was the result of harrassment or of consensual behaviour, the conviction fails that test and it should be quashed. The motion, as proposed and as adopted, achieves this.

  • We did read them. We also took into account the reams of academic research into the issue and our consultations with women currently in the sex industry and formerly in the industry. The vast majority of this evidence and consultation pointed towards decriminalisation as being the preferred model to prioritise the safety of the women in the industry.

    Our aim from the start had always been to find the model that would be most helpful to keep women in the industry safe. We found that the Nordic model had severe deficiencies in how it changed the dynamic between those women and the police when it came to justice for crimes perpetrated against the women.

    Incidentally, I’m incredibly disgusted at the demands some are currently making to other members of the working group to name people we consulted with, a large proportion who only contributed with a promise of confidentiality for fear of reprisal.

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