Like begging, prostitution in an extremely complex and controversial issue. Areas which exhibit high levels of street prostitution have been found by some studies to contribute towards the general public's perception of the risk of crime. There are other undesirable side effects of street prostitution, such as soliciting of male residents of areas in which street prostitution is endemic and the propositioning of local women. Added to this, the isolation and vulnerability of the prostitutes themselves are major problems on their own.
Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) and civil injunctions have been used in a number of local areas to prevent soliciting and kerb crawling.
Kerb crawling is the act of soliciting a person for the purpose of prostitution from a motor vehicle whilst on a street or in a public place. It is an offence under section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 1985 (England & Wales) and Article 60 of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008. In England and Wales, section 71 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 makes kerb crawling an indictable offence where it is likely to cause annoyance to women or to other people in the neighbourhood or where it is persistent behaviour.
Persistent kerb crawlers can be penalised by a maximum fine of £1000 and, in England and Wales, under s1 of the Powers of the Criminal Courts (sentencing) Act 2000, a court can disqualify kerb crawlers from driving as part of their sentence. Civil injunctions obtained by local authorities using their powers under s222 of the Local Government Act 1972 or Article 116 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 can also be a speedy and effective way of prohibiting kerb crawlers from continuing that behaviour and excluding them from a specified location.
Anti-social behaviour orders can also be obtained from the magistrates' court or from the criminal court following a conviction for the offence of kerb crawling. Again, these orders can prohibit the offender from continuing kerb crawling activities and exclude that person from a specific location.
A particularly cost effective deterrent is the use of CCTV monitoring, warning signs and sending warning letters to those whose cars have been seen in a red light area. Acceptable behaviour contracts or agreements can be used where a kerb crawler is willing to agree a change in their behaviour.
Environmental changes can be considered, such as constructing barriers, and gating off alleyways to deny access to areas for sexual activity.
In England and Wales, it is an offence for someone to advertise the services of a prostitute with cards in, or in the vicinity of, a public telephone box (or other selected public structures) under section 46 and 47 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001.
It is an offence for someone to solicit or loiter in a public place for the purposes of prostitution. The penalty is a £500 fine the first offence, and £1000 for further offences (Street Offences Act 1959, section 1 or Article 59 of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008). The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (section 56) extends this offence to men as well as women, whereas the offences under the Northern Ireland Order are not gender specific.
Before this offence applies, it is necessary to prove that the individual is a common prostitute, that is, regularly operates as a prostitute. This is done by administering two or more cautions for prostitution. This brief administrative process provides an opportunity to give individual details of available, appropriate support.
Diversion towards drug treatment and other rehabilitative activities can also be provided through conditional cautions or arrest referral. New provisions in England and Wales under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 will also allow the court to make a Community Order if an individual has been convicted and fined on at least three occasions.
Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) and civil injunctions have been used in a number of local areas to protect communities from the harassment, alarm and distress caused both by those soliciting and those kerb crawling.