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New laws to target kerb-crawlers
Kerb-crawlers face a criminal record, a fine of up to £1,000 and the shame of exposure to family, friends and colleagues from today, under new laws to tackle the demand for prostitution on Scotland's streets.
To date the law in Scotland has criminalised those selling sex on the streets while largely leaving untouched the individuals who demand their services.
The Prostitution (Public Places) (Scotland) Act 2007, passed by MSPs on February 28, criminalises soliciting for the purpose of obtaining the services of someone engaged in prostitution, and loitering for the same purpose.
The Scottish Government is also working with Westminster to ensure that in future the courts will have the power to disqualify offenders from driving.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:
"This new approach to the problem of street prostitution shows we will not turn a blind eye to the people who sustain and fuel this exploitative trade.
"It corrects an unfair legal position where only those engaged in prostitution could be targeted, while the kerb-crawlers demanding their services - often harassing the wider community in the process - get off scot-free.
"Well, no longer. Those who leave their comfortable homes to exploit the vulnerable women on our streets, without a thought - or simply without a care - for the damage they do, will rightly face the full force of the law.
"Of course, it requires more than laws to tackle the often complex and deep-seated problems faced by those involved in prostitution and to reassure and protect communities who for too long felt like prisoners in their own homes.
"So we will continue working with local authorities, police and community planning partners to tackle these issues. But while we rightly seek to help those individuals trapped in prostitution, we simply cannot, and will not sit back and let the demand that fuels this deeply damaging and dangerous trade go unchallenged." Assistant Chief Constable John Neilson, who leads on prostitution for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS), welcomed the new legislation as the "missing piece of the jigsaw". He added:
"The new law which comes into effect today changes fundamentally the power that our police officers can wield in tackling the purchaser.
"This is a welcome piece of legislation and an effective tool for us to use in areas where there is a known prostitution problem. Police forces across Scotland, in particular, the four main cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, are certainly ready to embrace the provisions of this Act.
"I think the many communities and businesses that have been blighted by the antisocial behaviour that kerb-crawlers create will also be relieved that we have the power to arrest persons who loiter in their areas, often accosting ordinary members of the public as they go about their daily lives.
"Kerb-crawlers perpetuate the demand that keeps vulnerable women and men immersed in prostitution. They hinder the efforts that we in the police and many of our partners make to create routes out for those who are vulnerable and caught up in street prostitution."
Jan Macleod, of the Women's Support Project, added:
"I very much welcome this new legislation, which is the first Scottish legislation to directly challenge the demand from men to buy sex.
"In addition to providing a means of reducing nuisance within communities, it sends out the important message that it is this demand to buy sex which is the root cause of prostitution, and that whilst women in prostitution are there through lack of choice, the men are freely choosing to behave in this way.
"I also welcome the funding award to the 'four cities', since additional support for women abused through prostitution is also vitally important."
The 2007 Act criminalises soliciting for the purpose of obtaining the services of someone engaged in prostitution and loitering in such a manner that, in all the circumstances, it is reasonable to infer that the loitering is for the purpose of obtaining the services of someone engaged in prostitution. It remains an offence to solicit or loiter in a public place for the purpose of selling sexual services, with offenders liable to a fine of up to £500.
The Scottish Government is currently working with the UK Government to ensure that the power to disqualify drivers (an issue reserved to Westminster) convicted of the new offences is made available to Scottish courts in the near future.
Kerb-crawling offences have existed in England & Wales since 1985. They are not as stringent as the new Scottish offences as they require conduct to be persistent or to cause nuisance. More than 800 convictions were secured in each of the last three years under these offences.
The Scottish Government wants to capitalise on the momentum of the legislative change. Further publicity to highlight the new laws and support their aims is being developed.
The four cities where street prostitution predominantly occurs have been given a £1 million funding boost to develop comprehensive local strategies to tackle the various associated problems.