Leeds red light district ‘hasn’t worked’, says pioneer

One of the councillors instrumental in setting up Leeds’ legal prostitution zone has admitted that the project is a failure.

Mark Dobson was one of those who initially championed the zone in Holbeck where police agreed to turn a blind eye to kerb crawling and soliciting.

He said: “We tried something and it hasn’t worked. Sometimes the hardest thing to say is we got this wrong.”

Violent crime

The zone was introduced with the stated intention of keeping women safe by giving them greater confidence to report crime to the police without fear of arrest, but one resident said it is simply “endorsing human suffering”.

Soliciting for sex and kerb crawling has been permitted in the industrial area of Holbeck since 2014, and in the last two years, there have been at least 67 violent and sexual offences inside the zone.

“misogyny in action”

Alan Caton OBE, a retired detective superintendent for Suffolk Constabulary, queried why people seemed to be content to ignore the growing crime rate.

He said: “It’s misogyny in action. It cannot go on indefinitely: criminals are being left unfettered and men are doing whatever they like.

“It’s just going to increase and increase and sadly there will be more cases where women will be hurt, robbed, raped and murdered.”

Zero tolerance

Following the murder of five prostitutes in Ipswich in 2006, Caton responded by implementing a zero tolerance approach to kerb crawling.

He said that as a result of his policy, around 80 women left the sex trade.

Mr Dobson said that Leeds council should “seriously consider” Caton’s model, adding that decriminalisation “was the wrong approach from the start”.