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Policing and Crime Act (Section 14)

Volume 502: debated on Monday 14 December 2009

20. What plans he has to publicise the change in the law contained in section 14 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009. (306234)

The Home Office’s “Tackling the Demand for Prostitution: A Review” document recommends a campaign aimed specifically at sex buyers to raise awareness about trafficking for sexual exploitation. We are currently considering how a campaign can be used to highlight the change in the law and its effects.

We are also updating the Home Office circular on policing prostitution and work with other criminal justice agencies. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Campbell), who has responsibility for crime reduction, wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) on 11 December to outline this matter in detail.

I thank the Department for that letter, but one thing that shocked me when I launched some research was how few men had ever been arrested for soliciting. One hundred and three men who had paid for sex were interviewed, but only 5 per cent. had been arrested, meaning only five or six men. The risk with the new offence is that men do not think they are going to be successfully prosecuted. Can the Minister promise me that the prosecution and publicity strategies will go hand in hand, so that men who pay for sex from exploited women know that they risk getting a criminal record?

Absolutely—my hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point and was instrumental in bringing that legislation forward. It is absolutely vital that we ensure both that prosecutions take place and that the legislation has a deterrent effect. We are now looking, with colleagues such as those in the POPPY project, representatives of which met my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, to look at how we can promote the issue early in the new year, to ensure that we do what we are trying to do, which is reduce prostitution and soliciting on the streets of the United Kingdom.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) on her relentless campaign to ensure that section 14 got on to the statute book. May I make a suggestion to the Home Secretary? One of the best ways of discovering trafficked women would be to have another Pentameter operation. Pentameter 1 and 2 were very successful—the latter involved 830 actual arrests. Is he considering a Pentameter 3, which would involve all police forces in a campaign to outlaw the trafficking of women?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his recognition of the participation of my hon. Friend the Member for Slough in bringing that law to fruition and the importance that we give to how it is implemented and examined. We are certainly considering the hon. Gentleman’s suggestions, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is looking into these matters.