Government toughens prostitution proposals

The Government has accepted an amendment to its planned prostitution law to allay fears that it was watering down its original plan.

But with a new Home Secretary in place, it is not yet known how committed he will be to push ahead with toughening the law.

When the Government announced its original plans in November 2008 it said it would criminalise men who paid for sex with women who were being “controlled for gain”.

The proposal was aimed at dealing with the problem of women being trafficked into the sex trade.

But last month the Government announced it was changing the wording of the offence from “controlled for gain” to “subjected to force, deception or threats.”

Women’s groups said this was a watering-down of the offence.

Since then, the Government has accepted a clarifying amendment proposed by Fiona Mactaggart MP.

Her explanatory clause reads: “For the purposes of this section ‘force’ includes coercion by threats or other psychological means including exploitation of vulnerability.”

During a House of Commons debate on the revised wording, Miss Mactaggart mentioned a meeting she had with Tim Brain, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on prostitution and sex crimes.

Having initially said that the new offence would be too complex to effectively police, he now feels, according to Miss Mactaggart, that “the offence is enforceable, even in its initial wording”.

The Government’s Policing and Crime Bill was introduced under former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. New Home Secretary Alan Johnson has yet to comment on the Bill’s provisions.