Sex workers targeted by new measures

SEX workers who refuse to voluntarily stop working the streets of Ipswich could be banned from plying the trade anywhere in England and Wales - or face jail.

SEX workers who refuse to voluntarily stop working the streets of Ipswich could be banned from plying the trade anywhere in England and Wales - or face jail.

While the police, vice and drug experts behind Ipswich's new prostitution strategy have aimed the toughest measures against kerb-crawlers and designed new steps to help sex workers, they have warned those who continue to refuse help will not escape punishment.

Under the new strategy, which was launched yesterday and directs the town's policy on the sex trade for the next five years, prostitutes will sign up to new acceptable behaviour contracts which will govern how they are to behave and how the authorities are to help them.

In return they will be given help with housing, drug treatment, debt, even dental work and other health services but if they don't live up to the agreements and show no signs of trying to free themselves from the grip of drugs, then anti-social behaviour orders will be used.

But the authors of the strategy today said that the Asbos would only be a last resort when a raft of options aimed at getting the women off drugs and away from the world of vice had been exhausted.

Superintendent Alan Caton from Suffolk police said: “What we are trying to do is help those women. The majority of them want that help.”

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New efforts will be made to help the women access health services and join up to drug programmes.

The agencies are trying to turn around years of failures in getting Ipswich's sex workers to access mainstream services.

In 2002 a survey showed that half of the street workers had never attended a sexual health clinic and one third had accessed no sexual health services at all.

Dr Amanda Jones, deputy director of public health at Suffolk PCT, said: “We know that a lot of people do not access the services.”

And Sari Pestell, partnership manager at the Probation Service, said extra resources which will be devoted to helping sex workers as a result of the new strategy would help.

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