Woman in scarf looking out on busy road

Sex crimes double in Britain’s only red light district

19th Nov 2018 - James Mildred

The number of sex crimes in Holbeck, where you find Britain’s only official red-light district have more than doubled since the experiment was introduced.

It was back in October 2014 that the concept of a red-light district was first put into operation, with the initial plan being that it would be a 12 month pilot scheme.

The idea was that the police would not enforce the current offences of soliciting (both for the sale and purchase of sex or ‘kerb crawling’) between 8pm and 6am each day.

It is claimed this approach helps to regulate prostitution in order to combat trafficking, violence against women and high rates of sexual diseases such as HIV. However, in practice this has not proven to be the case. On those counts it has decisively failed.

Instead of protecting those in prostitution, the scheme has attracted international criminal gangs into the area who have profited by trafficking women and girls. Complaints of rapes and sexual assaults have doubled in the area and rates of sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise, as is the prevalence of HIV. In December 2015, a Polish woman was murdered and last summer, there were three attempted murders.

'Failed vulnerable women'

Even a councilor in the area who was involved in setting up the scheme willingly admits its failings. Mark Dobson told the Daily Mail: “I do think it was introduced with the best possible intentions. However it’s failed. It’s failed the local community, it’s failed the business community and, most of all, it’s failed vulnerable women. I have to hold my hands up and say it hasn’t worked.”

Holbeck approach 'puts lives at risk'

CARE’s Senior Policy Officer – Human Trafficking, Louise Gleich said: “Leeds ‘red light district’ has been a failure. 

“The local council must abandon this scheme before more damage is done. They also need to look at providing funding for more services that will help support women in prostitution to exit.

“We think a far better way of protecting vulnerable women and local communities is to introduce laws to criminalise the purchase of sex.”

Find out more

READ: more about CARE's campaign work on criminalising the purchase of sex


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