Belfast Telegraph

PSNI urged to co-operate with sex workers

Liam Clarke

Laura Lee has written to PSNI chief Matt Baggott suggesting that police co-operation with sex workers and their clients would be the most effective way to combat human trafficking.

Ms Lee, of the International Union of Sex Workers, is opposed to a Bill proposed by Lord Morrow that seeks to make it illegal for men to pay for sex.

In her letter, she agrees with the PSNI's assessment "that the majority of persons selling sex are independent and not trafficked or controlled".

She said she wanted the police to have a chance to consider her proposals before giving evidence to the Stormont justice committee tomorrow.

Last night she said that she backed comments by Superintendent Philip Marshall, the officer spearheading the fight against human trafficking, that outlawing payment for sex could close up a source of information from men buying sex.

"The PSNI can see the sense of not dragging the trade further underground and obviously I am fully supportive of their position on that," Ms Lee said.

"If someone is suffering in the sex industry because they are underage or are working under duress then the only people they come into contact with will be other sex workers and/or clients. So how can Lord Morrow deem it proper to cut off that route of communication?"

Her letter also proposes that police should work with Ugly Mugs, a group which alerts sex workers to abusive clients. Figures suggest that the number of suspected cases of human trafficking is rising year on year in Northern Ireland.

Lord Morrow called the increase "nauseating" adding: "We must ensure efforts are focused until this modern day slavery is wiped out. That is the reason I have brought forward my Private Member's Bill to not only reduce demand for human trafficking, but also to improve the services and support offered to victims."

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