Human rights committee condemns criminalisation of child prostitutes

April 20, 2009 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

A joint committee of the Lords and Commons has expressed concern about the effect of new legislation on vulerable people, including children.

The Policing and Crime Bill contains measures to protect people trafficked for sexual services. It was introduced by the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, on 18 December 2008.

“The public is our best weapon in fighting crime and this Bill gives them the right to expect the police to focus on the crimes that matter to their community,” she said.

“The measures in the new policing and crime bill will ensure that the police and local authorities tackle the issues that matter to you, such as alcohol related crime and disorder, prostitution and lap dancing clubs.”

The Bill covers police reform, sexual offences and sex establishments, alcohol misuse, proceeds of crime, extradition, aviation security, criminal records and border controls.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights said it was unhappy that the legislation “failed to respond to our central concern which is the ongoing criminalisation of children involved in prostitution.”

The committeee said it welcomed attempts to protect the rights of trafficked people.

“However, introducing a strict liability offence for buying sexual services from prostitutes who are being controlled for gain by a third person risks inappropriately interfering with the right to respect for a private life.

“The Government should publish evidence to support the need to make the offence one of strict liability, to show why the existing criminal law is inadequate to deal with the targeted conduct and how the proposed new offence is proportionate.”

The committee want the Bill changed should be changed “to ensure, as an element of the offence, that the individual was aware or ought to have been aware that the prostitute was controlled for gain.”

“The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has recently recommended that the UK should view child prostitutes as victims and not as criminals.

“This Bill continues to criminalise children, which we believe is unacceptable. We recommend that the Bill be amended to decriminalise children involved in prostitution.”

Read the full report here.

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Entry filed under: Committees, Commons, Lords. Tags: , , , , , .

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