The Merseyside police have been working with sex workers’ organisations to catch violent offenders, not arresting street sex workers (outdoor sex work is a minor crime – ‘soliciting’ for the sex worker and ‘kerb crawling’ for the sex purchaser – while indoor sex work is legal) until they have offered them help to exit the sex industry but the sex worker has continued with sex work, and have declared all crimes against sex workers hate crimes. This has resulted a 67% conviction rate for rape, while the national average rate is 6.5%. So, basically what this model consists of is 1) treating such crimes as hate crimes and 2) creating effective partnerships with sex worker organisations (including using exiting strategies in place of arrest).
This push for the Merseyside model to be implemented across all police forces in the UK should be easy and uncontroversial – because the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) Guidelines on Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy already state that all forces should do what is “currently done by Merseyside Police, to deal with violent and sexual crimes / incidents on sex workers in the same vein as a ‘Hate Crime / Incident’” (ACPO Guidelines on Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy p8). So, it looks like 1) has already been endorsed by ACPO.
“ACPO supports the work of the UK Network of Sex Worker Projects, especially in relation to the ongoing development and enhancement of ‘Ugly Mugs’ schemes.” (ACPO Guidelines on Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy p6).The guidelines also state that “This strategy supports partner organizations and projects offering support services to sex workers” (ACPO Guidelines on Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy p5) and ACPO believes that the strategy’s objectives “ objectives will only be achieved through working in partnership with other agencies, organisations and individuals” (ACPO Guidelines on Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy p6). Police are also instructed that they should only arrest street sex workers “[O]nly as part of a staged approach that includes warnings, police engagement with local support projects, voluntary engagements with projects, existing diversionary mechanisms and Engagement & Support
Orders (ESOs)”. So 2) appears to be supported by ACPO as well.
These guidelines were written in 2010, and updated in 2011. So why haven’t other police forces taken these guidelines on board?
It’s a mystery, but it’s good news for us – because it means that, instead of convincing the police that the Merseyside model is something they should be doing, we just have to get them to do what they already agree they should be doing.