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Thursday, 20 November 2008


Men may now be prosecuted if they pay for sex with women who are trafficked or controlled, eg by a pimp or drug dealer. Ignorance that the woman was being controlled will not be a defence and men who knowingly pay for sex with trafficked women may face rape charges.

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has been courageous in introducing this legislation which also includes prosecution for first-time kerb crawlers. Despite criticisms from the likes of former Tory Leader Michael Howard, these measures will, I believe, help bring down the numbers of women trafficked into prostitution.

Never underestimate the numbers of women involved. The Metropolitan Police have estimated that 70 percent of the 88,000 women in prostitution in England and Wales are under the control of traffickers. Trafficking is a brutal and inhuman crime. Men who use prostitutes who have been trafficked are feeding this crime.

Since nearly three quarters of prostitutes in this country have been trafficked there is a very strong chance that those men who visit prostitutes will have sex with a trafficked woman. Studies show that use generates demand. This means that without action such as that taken by the Home Secretary the number of women trafficked into the UK will only go up.

The new legislation has come about following a six month consultation so it is well thought through and not a knee jerk reaction. Yes, I would have liked to see paying for sex outlawed all together as in Sweden, but it was clear the public in this country would not accept such a radical measure all in one go. I do, however, hope we may come back to this in the future and that the present position will not be set in stone for all time.

I think it is telling that the police support the Home Secretary's proposed new laws. The legislation is based in part on evidence from Pentameter, the police operation in London which did much to tackle trafficking in the capital. Her proposals have also been welcomed by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

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