Is Leeds showing the way forward on prostitution?

Considering our own forward-thinking policy on prostitution, I wonder if readers approve of the scheme currently being run in Leeds. The BBC reports:

A suburb in Leeds is the first place in the UK where it is permitted for women to sell sex between specified hours. The “managed approach” was introduced to try to control the trade.

…in this specified network of roads, street prostitutes can sell their services from 19.00 to 07.00 BST, without being stopped by police.

Traditionally, workers operated across the whole of Holbeck – this scheme has moved them from residential streets to places where businesses operate in the day but not at night.

The “managed area” scheme comes with rules:

  • Working on streets outside the agreed area or times will not be tolerated
  • Litter including condoms/wrapping/syringes should not be left
  • People should respect business and other properties
  • Crime, public disorder and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated
  • No drug use is allowed

You can read about the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire’s report about this project here.

What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments thread below.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Sounds sensible, although maybe legalised and regulated brothels in non-residential areas might be better still, and even safer for the (mostly) ladies concerned.

  • Barry Snelson 13th Apr '16 - 3:27pm

    Thousands of years of regulators have attempted to control this repugnant trade and this feels like another retreat. It seems like in one part of this city certain existing and clear laws won’t be enforced. It’s a topic about which I know nothing and if those who do want to sanction illegality well, maybe, but it doesn’t feel right. But this experiment should be matched with furious policing to identify any trafficking, drug pushing, pimping, coercion and maximum social work effort to give these women a way out and encourage them to find a positive life.

  • I agree with Barry that selective, zonal, non-enforcement of the law must be a less than ideal way of dealing with this, but years of prohibition haven’t worked either.

    And of course this must be accompanied by ruthless police action against the surrounding exploitation by pimps, traffickers, drug pushers etc., plus effective outreach work. Hopefully this will be made easier by designating an authorised area.

  • George Potter 13th Apr '16 - 4:24pm

    I’d dearly love to know what is so repugnant about sex work.

    In particular I’d like to know what makes it so repugnant compared to the alternative employment options of demeaning and demanding labour working long hours for the minimum wage in menial service jobs.

    If two consenting adults choose to have sex then that shouldn’t be anyone’s business other than their own – whether money changes hands or not is irrelevant.

  • George Potter 13th Apr '16 - 5:02pm

    I’m curious why people like Barry think that their own moral pontificating on sex work is of such high importance that it justified defending policies which KILL sex workers.

    Because the simple truth is that decriminalisation makes sex workers safer. People who oppose decriminalisation support policies that kill sex workers and put them at greater risk of harm – these opponents of decriminalisation have blood on their hands.

    A relevant extract from the article:

    The percentage of crime victims willing to report their incidents has increased from 26% to 51%, according to National Ugly Mugs – a sex worker support organisation which runs database sharing information on potentially dangerous clients.
    “What happened as a result of the managed area – the trust now between girls and police – girls coming forward, punters coming forward,” she said.

    Safer Leeds – the police and council partnership – says the previous approach of police enforcement had not worked, so the zone was an attempt to reduce a long-standing nuisance. It says it has led to fewer complaints in residential areas and a significant increase in women accessing support services.

  • Barry Snelson 13th Apr '16 - 11:24pm

    I’m disgusted by some of the responses here. This process is a surrender (and of course with the best intentions – most surrenders are). It normalises exploitation. It makes this a trade as acceptable as hairdressing. It’s a bonanza for the shady traffickers. What next – Amsterdam?
    The notion of a happy tart out on the streets is pure myth. These women are enslaved by their drug pushers and pimps. If society had a conscience it would put real efforts into rescue and help together with eye watering consequences for drug peddlers and slavers. The aim should be to empty these streets by taking away the desperation that sends these women out there..

  • Malcolm Todd 13th Apr '16 - 11:56pm

    Barry Snelson 13th Apr ’16 – 3:27pm
    “It’s a topic about which I know nothing.”

    Barry Snelson 13th Apr ’16 – 11:24pm
    “The notion of a happy tart out on the streets is pure myth. These women are enslaved by their drug pushers and pimps.”

    Did you really go from knowing nothing to being an expert in 8 hours, Barry? Or are you assuming that your prejudice is as good as actual evidence?

  • Barry Snelson 14th Apr '16 - 9:03am

    Well I’ll leave it to you experts on prostitution then and I humbly withdraw my observations. My only consolation is that my conscience is clear and I am not party to the horrible exploitation of vulnerable young women, from mostly the poorer parts of Europe, now apparently endorsed and supported by Yorkshire Police and most of the commentators on this blog.
    I still believe, from my now admittedly limited knowledge, that these females are someone’s daughters and need proper support and help to get them off the streets and less assistance to carry on their degradation.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Apr '16 - 10:13am

    @ Nick Baird,
    Thank you for pointing out that it is ‘mostly ladies’. The term ‘sex -worker; brushes over the idea that this is a gendered occupation.

    @ Barry Snelson,
    If it helps, I find the idea that one can ‘buy’ a woman or ‘rent’ a boy exploitative especially given the background of some of those involved in the ‘trade’.

    Given that some on in the past, some posters have shown themselves opposed to the Scandinavian model to reduce harm, one will have to wait and see whether harm is reduced by these measures, ( something I would support), or whether it is just a measure that keeps the reality of prostitution away from from the sight of ‘decent ‘ people’.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 14th Apr '16 - 1:03pm

    Something similar (a tolerance zone) was tried in Scotland years ago in a scheme run by a local council and local police force, holyrood and the lib dem MSP had it shutdown by amending the nations laws to make it legally unsustainable.

    The lib dems don’t seem to know where they stand on this because the party seems to contain a bizarre coalition of true liberals and the authoritarian regressive left. In Scotland the regressive left seems the larger of the two blocks in the party. Sadly I predict the lib dems will be split right down the middle on this, me personally I would be in favour of legalising prostition.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 14th Apr '16 - 1:11pm

    @George Potter

    “People who oppose decriminalisation support policies that kill sex workers and put them at greater risk of harm – these opponents of decriminalisation have blood on their hands.”

    It’s as black and white as all that is it George? And those who disagree with your stance are personally guilty every time a prostitute is murdered on account of them having had the ‘wrong’ opinion?

  • Leeds Council themselves have a somewhat confused view of sex work. On the one hand, the managed zones are a net good, but on the other hand, the council’s policy of gradually closing SEVs seems to be counteracting the managed zones when it comes to safety.

  • Cornervizion 15th Apr '16 - 10:03pm


    The tolerance zones are a divisive but yet a positive step to tackle the issue of sex work and hopefully somebody somewhere will take whatever feedback comes from it and do something positive instead of endorsing a regressive measure such as the “Nordic Model” (basically a left-wing anti immigration policy when you look into it deeper)

    To me, the time’s right more than ever to get sex-work decriminalised so that men & women who choose to undertake it can feel safer, access health support programs easier and even get fair and impartial exit strategies without judgement and on their own volition should they need them.

    What saddens me is that despite expert advice from groups such as Amnesty International, UN AIDS and the English Collective of Prostitutes who push for “Decrim”. There are sections of the UK Government who willfully ignore and marginalise their voices because to them… “All Prostitution is Rape”, ” All Prostitutes are Victims ” and “All Prostitutes are foreign and trafficked” (despite in the very large majority of Sex Workers that is simply not the case)

  • Seeing as they will never be able to stop it, I say legalise it across the board.
    I have never used this sort of service , but if men and women choose to do it for a living then fair play to them as I do not think it its a decision anyone would make lightly.
    I do NOT think that it should be taught or offered as a career in any way shape at school.

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