Lap dancing laws to get toughened

The Government is set to tighten the law on lap dancing clubs giving local residents more power to object, according to press reports.

Culture minister Gerry Sutcliffe MP has written to local authorities acknowledging that the current law is felt to be inadequate and asking for suggestions on how it could be improved.

Since the Licensing Act came into force in 2003, lap dancing clubs outside London have only needed the same kind of licence as karaoke bars and cafes. Since then, the number of clubs in Britain has doubled to 300.

Campaigners claim that lap dancing clubs threaten the safety of local residents. A report by the Lilith Project found that incidents of rape in Camden rose by 50 per cent and sexual assault by 57 per cent between 1999 and 2002, during which time four lap dancing clubs had opened in the area.

If the law is changed residents could be given more opportunity to oppose the opening of such clubs. However, the Home Office says it is too early to know whether any changes in the law could be used retrospectively.

Labour MP for the City of Durham, Roberta Blackman-Woods, has introduced a 10 Minute Rule Bill calling for lap dancing clubs to fall into the same category as sex shops, which would mean they would be subject to stricter licensing rules.

Introducing the Bill to the House of Commons, Dr Blackman-Woods said: “Too many lap-dancing clubs are gaining licenses when local residents, the police and others deem them to be totally inappropriate.

“This Bill does not seek to ban lap-dancing clubs. It merely seeks to strengthen and add to the criteria that can be taken into consideration in deciding when to license a lap-dancing club in a particular location.

“It therefore seeks to strengthen the role that local communities can play in deciding whether a lap-dancing club is appropriate for their area.”

In his letter to local councils, Gerry Sutcliffe wrote: “It is clear that the protections and regulations set out in the 2003 act and elsewhere do not go as far as some people would like to control the proliferation of lap dancing clubs and similar establishments.

“I would like to have your views on whether there are issues related to lap dancing and similar entertainment that you feel cannot be adequately controlled by licensing legislation.”

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