Sex workers to be counselled

PROSTITUTES in Ipswich will be made to attend counselling sessions if they are arrested for working the streets and face jail time if they don't show up, The Evening Star can reveal.

PROSTITUTES in Ipswich will be made to attend counselling sessions if they are arrested for working the streets and face jail time if they don't show up, The Evening Star can reveal.

Controversial proposals will see convicted working girls ordered to attend three meetings with a specialist counsellor in an effort to get them out of prostitution.

However, if they fail to show magistrates will be granted the power to jail them on remand for up to three days.

Critics have slammed the idea, part of the new Criminal Justice and Immigration bill to be debated in parliament in October, claiming it will effectively make prostitution a custodial offence for the first time in 25 years.

Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, Liz Harsant, described the proposals as “draconian” and said the threat of jail needs to be removed.

She said: “I think the idea of counselling is good but it would be better if they had a dedicated support worker who was able to visit them.

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“I don't like the idea of imprisonment for not attending.

“Most of these girls have such vulnerable lives and have probably got young children.

“They need help - not spending time in prison.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the 72 hour period is not intended as a punishment but rather has been set to give the police the chance to get the person before the right court.

The full period would be used in very few cases.

She said: “Referral orders are widely used throughout the criminal justice system.

“In this instance, they offer a route to rehabilitation with the aim of disrupting the sex markets that so often damage local communities and are designed to eliminate the destructive behaviour of individuals involved in prostitution.”

The proposed legislation has been drawn up partly in response to last year's red-light killings.

It is supposed to help rehabilitation by putting women in touch with health officials and probation officers.

Statistics show that across the UK some 3,500 prostitutes a year are brought to court or cautioned for soliciting offences.

Do you think the new legislation is the right way to tackle prostitution? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

LOCKING prostitutes up because they fail to attend counselling sessions will fail to help them in any way, a former Ipswich sex worker said today.

Charlotte, a member of the Ipswich prostitution steering group, worked on the streets of the town's red-light district as well as in a massage parlour before getting clean from drugs and leaving her life on the streets.

She said: “How much is it going to cost in tax payer's money?

“All the girls have already been in jail. For some of them jail would be a welcome break from everyday life.

“You can't force anyone into counselling, they've got to want to do it.

“Until they do you've just got to keep offering it to them.

“It took me three years until I agreed to go into treatment. I just woke up one morning and said 'I can't be doing with it anymore'.

FOLLOWING the killings of five Ipswich sex workers, The Somebody's Daughter Memorial Fund was launched in conjunction with Ipswich Borough Council.

The bodies of Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell were found in remote rural locations last December.

All had worked in the sex trade and all had drug habits.

As a legacy to the five women, and in a bid to prevent others from walking in their same desperate footsteps, The Somebody's Daughter appeal was given a mandate of helping vulnerable young people in Ipswich.

The ultimate goal is to raise enough money to open a refuge where those embroiled in prostitution and drugs can seek support and guidance.

Among the trustees of the Somebody's Daughter appeal, a registered charity, are Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks, borough council leader Liz Harsant and Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover.

Donations to the memorial fund can be made online at www.eveningstar.co.uk, in person at Ipswich Borough Council's customer service centre in the Town Hall, by calling 01473 433777, or by sending a cheque, made payable to Somebody's Daughter Memorial Fund, to PO Box 772, Ipswich Borough Council, Grafton House, 15-17 Russell Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2DE.