The Home Affairs Committee published an interim report in July last year following an inquiry into prostitution and the laws surrounding it. As part of its inquiry, the Committee heard evidence from people who suggested that existing legislation and fear of prosecution stopped them from working together, and potentially exposed them to risks to their safety by working alone. The Committee therefore recommended that the sharing of premises by sex workers should be decriminalised.
I believe the protection of sex workers from exploitation would have a positive effect on reducing other criminal activity, as the exploiters are often also involved in the illicit drugs trade and other illegal ventures. This is something that was clearly apparent in Ipswich at the time of the multiple murders in 2006. Criminalising the victims of sexual exploitation tends to protect the exploiters from being identified. It would be useful to consider the extent to which alternative legal frameworks for governing prostitution and sex work in other countries have been effective at reducing sexual exploitation.
Following the publication of the Home Affairs Committee’s report, the Government announced that it would commission research into the prevalence and nature of prostitution in England and Wales. The Government said that this would help to inform evidence-based policy decisions on how any changes to the law in the future ensure that those involved in sex work are safeguarded.
The protection of women and the prevention of sexual exploitation are incredibly serious matters and it is, of course, important to ensure that the law is having the desired effect. I appreciate that this is a problem on which there are a range of strongly held views, but I do believe that too much legislation in this area has been motivated by moral prejudice in the past, and I will do what I can to ensure that a more objective approach is taken in future.