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It is good to know, as my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss has reported, that the number of prosecutions is increasing. However, I simply cannot believe that we will improve the situation for the
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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness for clarification, because of my ignorance. She says that most of the trafficking takes place outside this country, which is of course true for those who capture these unfortunate women in the first place. However, when these women have been captured and brought into this country, there must be agents of those external traffickers who continue the work of controlling and supplying them. Surely it is those people whom our police should, in the first instance, be observing, arresting and controlling, especially as they have ample communications with police overseas. Does the noble Baroness agree?
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: Of course there must be contacts at this end. I would not deny that for a moment. However, I am also saying that for those who are outside and are part of a ring, our police should pay a lot of attention to trying to find these partners in crime. That does not lessen the efforts that we should make to stop the women coming over in the first place.
Lord Lucas: The position expressed by my noble friend Lord Waddington, which is that we should legislate to outlaw paying for sex, is entirely honest. When the Government started from that position-indeed, it sounded as if that was the position that they wanted to take-I thought that we were going to have an honest debate. I may not agree with that position-in fact, I do not agree with it-but it seemed that at least we had an honest position to start from.
However, we seem to have ended up with an entirely dishonest clause. It pretends that there is a tenable position half way between outlawing paying for sex and allowing it. That is not so. We should start from the position from which the noble Baroness who moved this amendment comes-the protection of the women involved in this business-and from the position adopted by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, on dealing with trafficking. Those are the evils that we should be intent on dealing with and we should ask ourselves at every step whether those are the effects that the clause or the amendments to it will have.
Some have argued that the Norwegian experience of banning paying for sex has been effective. Yes, but that is not where the Government are. The Government are in this strange half light of criminalising men for something that they cannot know that they are doing. That is an exceptionally undesirable position for the Government. I know that we will visit this issue later, but not while I am here. The Government should think again and say, "We have gone down the wrong road and Clause 13 is not the right way to do it". The amendment is an improvement on Clause 13, but I urge my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, when they divide the House-if not now, then on Report-rather to go for eliminating Clause 13 altogether.
It surprises me that a Labour Government should go down this route. In the end, it will be a law that, among other things, will bite the poor, not the rich. It attacks the forms of prostitution used by ordinary working men, not those used by rich men. That is unjustifiable social discrimination. Again, if the Government were being honest and had gone for the position expressed by my noble friend Lord Waddington and their own original desire to ban paying for sex, that would bite all equally. The Government's social conscience should not allow them to go down this route.
We have not heard any declarations of interest by noble Lords who have spoken-at least not in the sense that I mean. I note that there are a couple of dozen of us here and it is said that one in eight men uses prostitutes. There is, therefore, a less than 5 per cent chance, on average, that none of us has an interest to declare-but then we are not an average lot.
Lord Brett: I thank all the contributors to this debate. It was inevitable that it would not only spread across Clause 13 and Amendments 45 and 56 but spill over into some of the issues that have strong support inside and outside this Chamber, whether it is to decriminalise prostitution completely or to ban paying for sex completely. Indeed, we could inevitably start to stray into the next major contentious issue, which is strict liability. However, I shall follow the good advice of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, and not stray into that area until we reach it.
We are grateful for the constructive attempt to improve this clause, which has already gone through another place. We have considered the issues raised by Amendments 45 and 56 but none the less still believe that Clause 13 and the amendments that we have tabled to improve it represent the best way of defining the elements of this offence and finding a clear distinction between conduct that we wish to cover and the conduct that we do not.
Before I deal with the amendment in detail, I should like to explain the rationale for the offence created by Clause 13 and set out in general terms what it is intended to cover. I assure noble Lords that the offence is very much intended to be part of the Government's response to the problem of trafficking. I sense from some of the contributions that there may be a fear that we are talking about creating a new offence as a substitute for our efforts, through law enforcement, to get trafficking under control, to get the traffickers into court and to prosecute them. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This is simply another weapon in the armoury and not an attempt to reduce our endeavours to ensure that the horrible trafficking of women for sex is brought to a halt as soon as possible. This is very much part of a general response to the problem of trafficking. Taking steps to tackle the demand for trafficking for sexual exploitation was one of the actions recommended in the UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking. It was also a requirement imposed by Article 6 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which the UK has now ratified.
I emphasise that this offence is one part of a comprehensive approach to trafficking. The need to respond to this serious issue was clearly one of the
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We see a need to reduce all forms of commercial sexual exploitation. That is one of the key objectives of the Government's co-ordinated prostitution strategy, which sets out a comprehensive approach to tackling this issue. Many of the action points in the strategy have already been put in place. However, a number of the responses to the consultation, which informed the development of the strategy, emphasised the need to consider doing much more to tackle the demand for prostitution. That relates to the Government's attempt to create a culture shift in how we view prostitution and how we deal with it at law.
As part of the Government's review on tackling demand, we considered the approaches taken to prostitution in different countries. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked whether we had looked at the situation in New Zealand. Prostitution was decriminalised in New Zealand in 2003 under the Prostitution Reform Act. It is now a regulated endeavour and, under the provisions of the Act, brothels and escort agencies are required to be licensed and to have operator licences. We considered such an approach, but responses to the consultation and the evidence that we considered, which are highlighted in the review on tackling demand, supported taking a different approach-increasing criminal justice enforcement measures to tackle demand in order to target exploitation within the prostitution market. Our view is that it is not yet clear whether the New Zealand approach has proved to be effective and whether, in the long term, it would be beneficial. The noble Baroness referred to a five-year review, but I do not think that we have had sight of it at this stage.
To tackle demand, it would be necessary to criminalise those who contribute to the demand for trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation by paying for sex with those who are subject to exploitation and to deter those who pay for sex in such circumstances. We considered the option of criminalising those who pay for sex whatever the circumstances of the prostitute, but concluded that that was not the right approach. Instead, the review recommended that measures should be targeted at reducing areas of the sex market involving the most vulnerable-those who have been trafficked, exploited or involved in street prostitution.
The offence is targeted at those who are forced or coerced into providing sexual services, which may be as a result of being trafficked but may also be a result of other forms of exploitative conduct. We recognise that defining such conduct is not easy; amendments have been tabled both in another place and for discussion in this Committee to ensure that the definition is as clear as possible. As a result of the constructive approach that has been taken thus far, we have been able to
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I shall now set out why we believe that these amendments are not helpful in achieving that aim and shall try to respond to some of the points made by noble Lords. We note that the amendments would make it an offence to pay for sex with "the victim of trafficking". While we understand the sentiments behind that, the wording is problematic. It would mean that, where someone who had been trafficked escaped from the traffickers yet chose to work as a prostitute, it would still be an offence to have sex with that person if one knew, or ought to have known, of the person's past. Given the definition of trafficking, the person would not need to have been trafficked into the United Kingdom for sexual exploitation. They could have been trafficked for labour purposes, as we have seen in some parts of the agriculture sector.
The clause focuses on the conduct that is likely to be induced or which encourages the person to provide a sexual service to the payer. It covers cases in which a prostitute is coerced by traffickers but correctly excludes those cases when a person who was once trafficked to the UK now chooses to provide sexual services of her own volition. They will not be covered. The amendments would also cover those paying for sex with someone who has been subject to coercion. We have tabled amendments that make it clear that any form of coercion will be covered by Clause 13 offences. That includes threats of a non-violent nature, such as threats to withdraw accommodation or emotional support if the person does not provide sexual services. Government Amendments 52 and 62, which we will consider later, will cover that.
Amendments 45 and 46 would also make it an offence to pay for sex with a person who provides sexual services to gain access to controlled drugs. Clause 13, as currently drafted, deals with the issue of a prostitute agreeing to provide sexual services because her pimp has threatened that he will otherwise refuse to supply her with controlled drugs. However, it will not cover someone who decides to work as a prostitute and chooses to use the money to pay for controlled drugs. By contrast, Amendment 45 would cover both those scenarios and, as such, is too wide. While we accept that there are clearly circumstances in which people provide sexual services under desperate conditions, including to gain money for drugs, catching those who pay for sex with someone who has freely chosen to engage in prostitution and then spends the money that they receive on drugs would be beyond the aim of the offence, particularly as it makes no distinction between those who are feeding an addiction and those who may be occasional recreational drug users.
The amendment would also make it an offence to pay for sex with someone who had been directed or instructed to provide sexual services in circumstances when they had not consented to such direction. We would expect Clause 13 as drafted to cover most of the scenarios. If someone does not consent to a direction, one assumes that they would be free to ignore it, unless the direction was backed up by some force or threat. We believe that such conduct is already covered and falls within the scope of Clauses 13 and 14.
We also note that the offence created by the amendments would cover someone who has used the services of a prostitute who had been trafficked or coerced or was otherwise considered to be exploited under this definition, rather than just someone who has paid for sexual services. There is a danger that the offence would criminalise consenting relationships, such as those between prostitutes and their partner or spouse, as there is no requirement for payment to be made when the person uses the sexual services of the prostitute in that circumstance. It is the payment to those controlling the prostitutes that fuels the demand, so that is the act on which we wish to focus our endeavours.
The amendments also address the issue of strict liability by making it a requirement of the offence that the sex-buyer knew, or ought to have known, that the person whom they paid to have sex with had been trafficked, coerced, or the like. Although we understand and take seriously the concerns of the supporters of the amendment-indeed, such concerns have been raised in another place-we believe that it is important to maintain the strict liability element of the offence, for reasons that I will explain more fully when we consider Amendments 46, 50, 57 and 60. I also intend to deal with the concerns raised by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in respect of the Joint Committee on Human Rights about the strict liability element of the offence when we come to debate those amendments.
Several important points were made by noble Lords, which I will seek to address. They cluster, in some ways. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, gave an excellent analysis of the problem that we have in dealing with trafficking and how we have to make more endeavours not only to control the importation of prostitutes who are trafficked but to deal with the demand side. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, rightly said that there is an improvement in the prosecution rates. It is relatively recent, but prosecutions have been increasing as policies have been developed by the police to respond to the threat, such as intelligence-led, co-ordinated operations across police forces, which can be successful in identifying trafficking activities and rescuing victims. On the question raised by the noble and learned Baroness about providing some form of immunity for those who give evidence to convict traffickers and brothel owners, we do not believe that blanket immunity would be suitable. However, the CPS has discretion to decide where it is in the public interest to prosecute when a Clause 13 offence is thought to have taken place. The decision is taken in each individual case.
My noble friend Lord Judd raised the issue of support for criminal legislation. A number of voluntary organisations working with prostitutes support criminal legislation to tackle demand and support Clause 13-CARE, Toynbee Hall, the POPPY project and others. Of course, there are those who would want decriminalisation to be the first option, but in the absence of decriminalisation they want the Government to do far more to ensure that the demand side is tackled.
I hope that I have dealt with most of the questions. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, asked how, if the individual did not know, the police would
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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Before the noble Lord moves on, with respect, he has not quite answered the point that I put to him, which was to try to get inside the mind of an arresting officer-what the officer knows when he arrests the client. It seems to me that, if the person has been trafficked, in order to make the arrest and bring a successful prosecution, the arresting officer has to be able to prove who were the controllers in this country, or whoever was controlling that unfortunate woman-likewise with the victim of a pimp and the instances that the Minister gives of the supply of drugs. There is really no point in the police arresting the client unless they have knowledge that will enable them to arrest the cause of the problem, which is not the girl-or, indeed, the client-but the person who is controlling the unfortunate lady. That was my point.
Lord Brett: I understand the point the noble Lord makes. The difference is simply that he is seeing this as a one-dimensional picture. Many of these traffickers and the brothels in which prostitutes work-they are moved between different locations-will be matters of covert police investigation. The police will build up evidence over time. It may well not be a case of arresting all those in the building at the time. The covert operation may identify people who use the trafficked prostitutes and, when that evidence has been built up, arrests can be made. The collection of evidence is not the easiest of tasks. To return to a point made by the noble and learned Baroness, it is extremely difficult to capture and bring to court traffickers on an international basis. That is why international co-operation-
Lord Brett: I shall finish this because I am dealing with the international scene. If we have close work with other police forces through Interpol and on a bilateral basis, we can bring to task international rings that traffic prostitutes.
The Earl of Onslow: My noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch is making the good point that to get a conviction you will have to prove that the girl has been trafficked. To prove that she has been trafficked, you must surely have to know something about who has done the trafficking. That is the point my noble friend made, and I did not think that the Minister quite answered it.
Lord Brett: I am happy to give an example, which is always dangerous. If a brothel is under observation and it is suspected that prostitutes are being trafficked, primarily because they are being moved between different cities, which is quite a common occurrence, the place will be kept under observation for a number of days.
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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Not really. Surely when the police make this famous arrest, the activity in the brothel is likely to change immediately. People will all bolt like scalded cats in all directions. The Minister has not answered the question about what is in the knowledge of the police to make a successful arrest under this clause.
Lord Brett: I apologise for failing to convince anybody with my previous example. I shall try it again. You have customers for the prostitutes; you have eastern European-we will say eastern European, but they could be from any part of the world-prostitutes who are moving between cities. The police gather evidence and raid the establishment after observing who has come and who has gone. They will make criminal charges against the traffickers and the brothel owners, but the customers will have committed an offence if it turns out that the prostitutes were trafficked because under strict liability legislation customers will be liable whether they knew that the person was trafficked or not.
Baroness Stern: I will pursue two points. The first is that of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas: that the outcome of this legislation is that the part of the sex industry that is used and worked in by poor people will be criminalised while the rest is unaffected. Secondly, can the Minister confirm whether, while there are a few organisations working with sex workers who support the Government's approach, there is a coalition of all the projects that actually work with street prostitutes? I think there are 63 of them but I am sure that the Minister will correct me. None of them support the Government's approach and feel that it will make the work of those they try to help much more dangerous.
Lord Brett: On the latter, the consultation has elicited quite a number of views; as I said at the beginning of my contribution, there have been extremes, from decriminalising to a total ban. The Government have arrived at their policy judgment following those consultations. I can add no more to that. I am afraid that I missed the first point; if the noble Baroness could repeat it, I would be delighted to try to respond.
Baroness Stern: I was asking whether the Minister has a response to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas: that the Government's approach will criminalise the poor users of sex workers and those who work in
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Lord Brett: My direct answer to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, would be that rich men exploiting trafficked prostitutes are just as bad as poor men doing so. On the second point, our endeavours in this piece of legislation are of course to protect the most vulnerable. As we go through all clauses, not just this one, I hope that we can demonstrate not only the Government's intent but that this is a constructive way of achieving it. I recognise that there are very strong opinions on the issue, and that those arguments will echo around as we go forward. We will seek to find our way through them.
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