Save Our Eyes residents response to the Independent Review of the Managed Approach, Leeds

Our response to points raised in the Independent Review. We are grateful to the team from Huddersfield University for engaging with us during the review process.

For clarity: The Leeds policy applies across the city and is called the “Managed Approach to prostitution.” Aspects of that policy, for example, a dedicated area for street pimping and prostitution, is located in a physical area known as the managed zone/area in Holbeck. It is easy to confuse the policies (Leeds wide) with the location (a small number of streets) when discussing the subject.

Also included below are links to pages on our website www.saveoureyes.co.uk – reporters have permission to lift quotes from our website.

At the request of our friends and supporters who have suffered in prostitution we will refer to sex workers as prostituted women.

This document is a work in progress and may be amended or added to.

We would like to thank Councillor Amanda Carter for her work in securing a debate at Leeds Civic Hall in October 2018.  As a result of that debate an independent review was commissioned by Leeds City Council.

The scope of the Independent Review was narrowed, against the wishes of residents. LCC mandated that the review should not cover all communities affected by street prostitution (areas where zone activity had spread to). A Southern boundary for the Independent Review area was set at the M621 flyover. This excluded streets at Beeston Hill from the review team and the residents survey. Beeston Hill is affected by overspill from the MA.

Photo shows

Top in blue: rough area allocated to managed zone in industrial/ derelict area

Yellow pins: typical spread of used condoms across residential areas nearby indicates residential streets claimed by kerbcrawlers and prostitution

The phone box mentioned in our article is in the centre of the residential area, where the pin is “St Matthews”  community centre.

map of Holbeck & Beeston with managed zone outlined

Another restriction for the IR was that it should only focus on most recent times, to the exclusion of resident experiences and problems over the last 3 years. Reviewers were asked to ignore historical data and concentrate on only the most recent months. This meant that LCC were able to pour in additional resources to try and control the problems associated with the zone prior to the Review period starting. Where the Review mentions improvements these are recent improvements on the situation caused by the managed zone. They did not consider what Holbeck was like prior to the implementation of the zone. The situation may well be better now than it was 2 years ago but it’s still worse than it was 6 years ago. This is why it is noted that residents admit things have improved but still want the zone to be removed from Holbeck.

Recommendation 18 has already been ignored. A simple first step would have been to allow resident representatives at the Independent Review press conference on 9th July 2020 at 2pm. We had requested this and nominated Dennis Kitchen, a “Voice of Holbeck” committee member and chair of the local Neighbourhood Forum. Our request was denied and Cllr Andrew Scopes (Labour) invited to attend instead. Cllr Scopes is not a Holbeck resident and has previously campaigned in favour of the managed approach (a Labour policy.) Voice of Holbeck members were not issued with a copy of the IR until 5pm that day. Due to a press embargo (until 6am, 10th July) reporters who attended were not permitted to tell us what had been said.

The review concentrates on the perceived benefits to the prostituted women of concentrating street prostitution in one small area of Leeds. It does not consider the consequences to residents of that, or the potential benefits of removing the zone completely. As most prostitution is directed there, so is most kerb crawling. Predators on foot roam the streets looking for women & children. Holbeck and Beeston Hill have become areas where non-prostituted women can’t walk the streets without being kerb crawled or approached. We have already documented many previous approaches to school girls by men in the residential streets. http://saveoureyes.co.uk/dirty-man-asked-me-for-sex-im-13/

The report does not examine the dramatic rise in kerb crawling caused by the zone. Punters now believe that “it’s legal” to approach women by car or on foot in any area of Holbeck and Beeston Hill. This has caused fear among female residents who are now unable to walk the streets or stand alone at bus stops. Some employers in the zone allow female staff to leave work early in winter because it is too dangerous for them to walk to the bus stop at 5.30pm. What was originally meant for punters in the Leeds area has become a national “service” causing a huge rise in demand in Leeds. Men frequently travel up to 100 miles to seek prostituted women in Holbeck because they believe they won’t be arrested. One prostituted woman told us that she had two regular clients who drove up from Hampshire every two weeks. This “destination” feature of the MA needs to be reversed.

The review appears to have not considered the impact on children in our community. We have had many reports of children being approached by men on foot on the way to and from school, or when waiting at bus stops. How many communities in the UK have ever had to campaign for the removal of a phone box on their high street because people use it for paid sex? http://saveoureyes.co.uk/managed-approach-to-prostitution-affects-children-in-leeds/

The review also concentrates on the benefits to support services of concentrating street prostitution in one small area. It makes them easier to reach. However, these support agencies are paid to find and support the women and did so prior to the formation of the zone. Making life easier for the support services should not be a factor in a project that makes life so much more difficult for residents who are not paid to put up with it.

The review does not investigate the role of drug addiction as a “motivator” for women to enter prostitution and stay in prostitution. Once “working” in the managed approach a woman cannot escape unless her drug addiction is treated. According to local support agencies over 90% of all women regularly working the MA are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.

Page 24 notes that one of the original aims of the MA was to “maximise the opportunities for sex workers to access support services (including drug and alcohol services, health, housing, sexual, and domestic violence services) with a view to exiting sex work.” This is a noble aim and worth pursuing, however, we found examples of where this went wrong in practice. We know of a woman who was given a house in Holbeck to help rehabilitate her but her pimp moved in and forced her to continue working, using the house as a brothel. The property became a magnet for punters, the women inside being forced to work 24 hours a day. This caused significant problems with noise nuisance for neighbours. We can only imagine the distress caused to the woman involved, yet the Police softly, softly approach to “sex work” left her imprisoned for around 18 months. The managed approach is a wonderful example of the best hopes and plans working out poorly in practice. Not everything that “should” work on paper actually works in the real world.

The Review notes that the community did and mainly still do regard the MA as the “unmanaged approach” whilst acknowledging improvements in management since 2018. The Review links this to the appointment of Paul Money to Safer Leeds, which has been helpful. However, the impact of Inspector Ian O’Brien in his final year before retirement should also be noted. We remain grateful to Ian and his initiatives, particularly to reduce kerb crawling in residential streets (page 37).

YC60 CTK black BMW, kerbcrawler Leeds

Media publicity, both local and national, has formed a key part of the SOE campaign (page 40.) The IR suggests this led to the negative association of Holbeck being linked to the MA. However, prior to our media campaign commencing in 2017, we checked and found that most Google search results related to the link between Holbeck and prostitution. Save Our Eyes has been instrumental in bringing residents together and revealing the true scale of the problems suffered by the community.

Page 32 mentions the tiered management structure of the MA. In 2018, Voice of Holbeck committee members were allowed 2 seats at the lower tier meetings. At that time it was called the “operations group” as opposed to the higher tier “strategic group” that made the policy. Our delegates discovered that the strategic group did not seem to meet. People in power seemed very happy with the way the MA worked and had no plans to change it. Mr Money decided to move from two groups to three and these were named bronze, silver and gold. SOE/ VOH asked for a seat at the silver group and this was denied. Presently, SOE has one seat on the Bronze group and VOH have two.

The report does not investigate the issue of modern slavery and it’s links to organised crime and forced prostitution of women (especially Romanian women) on the streets of Leeds. The managed zone is the only area in the UK where it is safe for slave owners to prostitute trafficked women in the knowledge that those women will not be interviewed by the Police. Page 19 quotes UK law, The Sexual Offences Act 2003 has been amended by the Policing and Crime Act 2009 to introduce a new offence of making it illegal: “to pay for the sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force, threats (whether or not relating to violence) or any other form of coercion or any form of deception of a kind likely to induce or encourage the prostitute to provide those services”. Police are not routinely stopping or checking that women are working willingly. The trafficked women can’t speak English and are guarded by their owners. The zone makes it more difficult to deal with sex trafficking because removing women to a safe place to interview them is against the spirit of the managed approach.

Recommendations 15, 16, 17 suggest that some kind of PR campaign be undertaken to help the female residents of Holbeck feel safer. This indicates that the review has not taken seriously the frequent threats to residents from prostituted women, pimps and kerbcrawlers. PR and encouraging residents to think about positive aspects of Holbeck life will not solve the dangers posed to them! PR campaigns to improve the thoughts of victims can surely not be regarded an acceptable way of reducing crime. One of our SOE committee members has been approached by kerb crawlers three times in the last 2 weeks… those are just the ones that stopped their cars to proposition her.

See here for other resident accounts http://saveoureyes.co.uk/24-hours-in-holbeck/

We appreciate the inclusion of this point in sec 9.3

The following needs to be made clear and possibly included in MA documentation: The MA is an approach to reduce problems associated with on-street sex working in Leeds, within existing UK law (on soliciting and sex working). It is not, therefore, a vehicle for those wishing to petition for the current law on sex working to be changed. Should this happen, then the MA will change accordingly.

Residents have been attacked online and insulted, with threats being made against their businesses, by sex industry representatives who see the MA as THE main UK stepping stone to the legalisation of pimping, brothel owning and otherwise profiting from the sale of women’s bodies. This input from the sex industry has caused more problems and bad feeling; polarising opinions on both sides. Residents have been deliberately misquoted and portrayed in a negative light. MA supporters conflate the residents objections to the zone with a supposed hatred of the women. In reality, most residents see the women as victims of abuse and coercive control.

Financial costs of the MA (page 24) are quoted as being around £200,000 per year. From our ongoing discussions with Police and LCC we believe this is a significant under-estimate. We believe the women need support to exit instead of support to “work” and that policing should be directed at the kerb crawlers and punters on foot.

LCC cleansing services (page 36) has possibly been the greatest area of success where the community has partnered with the authorities. Daily teams collect the used condoms, tampons, baby wipes and drug paraphernalia from the streets. The reports are coordinated via the Save Our Eyes Facebook group. Council cleansing team staff are members and are tagged in appropriate posts. This has proved a very efficient way of summoning the cleansing team to problem areas. Without SOE, it would take at least 5 days for litter reports to filter through via the LCC reporting system. We remain grateful to the individual workers who have helped our community. However, the amount that remains is still greater than in many other areas of Leeds. We are concerned that the substantial cleansing costs may have been omitted from the total costs stated in the Review. We also wonder if any other residential area in the UK requires such an unusual level of support from a dedicated cleansing team?

The Listening Well report and meetings (page 28) were commissioned by the community led “Voice of Holbeck” group as a means of peer support and securing feedback. The interim report is due mid July 2020.

The IR mentions that Holbeck is a community with a high turnover. This is partly caused by the MA and disruption to resident’s daily lives. We know of many families that have moved away because they feel they can’t raise their children here.

“Don’t know about the other women in South Leeds but I feel so much safer? Oh no sorry…I mean let down…badly, badly let down.

I won’t even walk around this area any more, if I wanna go out I get a taxi directly out of South Leeds unless I have someone with me.  I wear jeans, hoodies and a hat if I do have to walk in this area just so I don’t stand out, I have to fork out for taxis every week day for my daughter to get to school because it ISN’T SAFE – she’s seen enough, we all have!

But yeah a “we love and respect” Holbeck month will make me feel sooooo much safer!!!!  Can’t wait to get out of this place, living here for me is too much of a risk.”

Jessica, mum of three school age children, 10.7.20

I get kerb crawled walking to work in the morning and evening. My partner gets accosted in his work van. The women selling sex assume he is a buyer because so many vans cruise the streets looking for sex. My son, 11, finds used condoms in the park and on the pavement on his way to school. We don’t even live next to the MA, it’s just spread across the wider area.”

Monica, resident at Beeston Hill, 10.7.20

A report from a Beeston Hill resident http://saveoureyes.co.uk/punter-ft11swo-silver-vw-golf/

Report from local mother who caught a couple having sex outside the primary school at home time http://saveoureyes.co.uk/sex-outside-primary-school-fg54yaf/

Suggested next steps:

1 Disassociate the managed approach policy from the managed zone. Remove the zone completely so that the policy applies across the whole city and any impact on residents is shared instead of concentrated. If LCC insist specific streets are required for kerb crawling these could readily be identified because many councillors voted in favour of the MA at a Civic Hall debate in October 2018. We propose that any street in the city where a pro-MA councillor lives could become a miniature local managed zone. The votes of 2018 are on the public record and could be used until another vote is held.

The people of Leeds have turned a blind eye to the plight of Holbeck residents. It’s time to share the burden. Street prostitution has moved before, for example from Chapeltown to Holbeck, and it can move again.

2 The community feedback in the Listening Well report (due soon) should be used to inform decision makers.

3 A total ban on kerb crawling and punters on foot is needed urgently to protect the Holbeck and Beeston Hill communities.

4 A change in UK law is required regarding kerb crawling. At present, we understand that it is a “found offence” that needs to be witnessed by two serving Police officers. This is a far higher burden of proof than is required for other crimes. At present, women who are harassed by punters and manage to obtain video evidence are ignored due to the UK law requiring two police officers as witnesses. Local police have been willing to contact kerb crawlers and interview them but a change in UK law is needed to make the process of dealing with these predatory men easier.

5 A Home Office visit is needed to collect and repatriate Romanian women who have been sex trafficked and forced to work the zone. We understand that there are up to 40 affected women who were originally lured here with promises of work in childcare or beauty salons.

6 We have witnessed the harmful effects of prostitution on the women who live immersed in it. We believe that prostitution is not like other jobs and can never be made safe. The demand from male sex buyers must be tackled by addressing this issue in schools from the teenage years upwards. Paying to abuse a woman should not be seen as normal or something she enjoys. We have noticed that punters on online forums often have distorted beliefs about the women they buy, such as that “she must be a sex addict” or “she does it for fun” or “I’m showing her a good time.” Tackling misconceptions about sex work is essential for British society to gradually move on from it.

The Save Our Eyes committee

10th July 2020

compassion for prostituted women, independent review Leeds managed approach

International day to end violence against sex workers

#Violence and organised crime are inextricably linked to #streetprostitution! 9 out of 10 prostituted women are unhappy and want to leave that life! Many prostituted women are victims of childhood trauma, child grooming, drug addiction, coercion & exploitation and trafficking. The only way to save the women trapped and save them from violence is to offer #rehabilitation and #enddemand #internationaldaytoendviolenceagainstsexworkers #drugaddiction #lovethyneighbour

Conversation between Dr Kate Lister of Basis & Paula at Save Our Eyes

The following emails are the conversation between Save Our Eyes committee member, Paula Brown and Dr Kate Lister who works closely with Basis.  Basis are LCC partners in the Managed Approach.  Paula says “I’d never met Kate Lister or had any previous correspondence with her.  As she doesn’t know me she thought she’d “discovered” something controversial… when in fact, everybody knows my husband is an architect and works on the regeneration of Holbeck!  I’ve had meetings with Gemma, Joan and Moya who Kate knows at Basis.  They are all aware why I’m involved in helping the residents.”

Paula has asked for this note to be added:
“I am aware that Dr Kate Lister is very close to Basis management and that they gave her my email address to contact me for her article.  This was done without my knowledge or permission.  Myself and Kate Lister had never had any contact until she emailed me using an email address that only Basis staff had.”

1

Dear Paula,

Following the recent press coverage of the Leeds managed approach, I am writing an article for inews that will go to press this week.

I would like to interview you over the phone to discuss the campaign and the long term goals of Save Our Eyes.

Please let me know if you have any availability and would be willing to offer your perspective.

Many thanks,

Kate

2

Hi Kate,

I may not be the best person to talk to if you’re after an official SOE position.  Views of the committee members can differ on certain points.

Do you have a set of questions we could provide written answers to?  There’s an SOE committee meeting tonight.  I could draft some responses today and get them amended/ agreed this evening as I understand you’re on a tight schedule.

Best wishes,

Paula

3

Hi Paula,

Thank you for the offer of drafting responses as a group, I want to talk specifically to you, rather than the committee as a whole.

 Do you have time for a phone conversation this afternoon?

Kate

4

Hi Kate,

Sorry, I can’t. If you email me any questions I’ll do my best to have them back to you tomorrow morning.

Best wishes,

Paula

5

Dear Paula,

I’m sorry you can’t speak today, but here are my questions. My editor wants the article today, but I can request a brief extension if you would like to make a comment.

What is your role within Save Our Eyes? As I understand it, you do not live in Holbeck, but run much of the online content. Is that correct?

Do you feel there is a conflict of interest given that you are campaigning to close the managed area down, but are also a director at Nick Brown Architects – who currently have three projects to build near or in the managed area? Including ‘Radius’, which is directly in the managed area.

Did you or other committee members declare this conflict of interest to the press?

Kate

6

Thanks Kate,

I will draft something for you and send it over. However, just so you’re aware, I am not a director of NBA.

Best wishes,
Paula

7

Dear Paula,

According to company check, you are a director at this company. Could you also explain why this is so?

8

Dear Kate,

You should have checked the official listing at companies house!  If you look again at that link it actually says I was a director for around 6 weeks in 2012.  The CH listing will show you the current company directors.

Best wishes,

Paula

9

Thank you for the clarification. It’s helped enormously.

Kate

10 (this email was sent to Kate BEFORE she wrote her article in inews.  It is the email she quotes from in the article.)
Hi Kate,
Thanks for your questions.  The answers are probably simpler than you expect – there is nothing to hide!
I am one of a group of people who were asked by Matt to make up the SOE committee last year.  I am not the only committee member who lives outside Holbeck.  Members were chosen because they had specialist knowledge and/ or brought different things to the conversation.
Online content is managed by the committee and several people create the content.
Everyone who knows me or has met me in relation to the Holbeck campaign is aware that my husband is Nick Brown who is a local architect.  Nick has worked on the regeneration of urban Leeds for over 20 years.  We have been married for 28 years.  I am not actually a director of Nick Brown Architects or Citylife and am not paid by either company.  I am here on a voluntary basis because I believe in the cause.  There’s no need for me to formally “declare” anything as it’s made immediately obvious, usually as part of any round of introductions at meetings.
 If you check the map of the zone you’ll find that Radius is not in the zone, it is next to it.  Radius is one of four sites in Holbeck that Citylife and their partners aim to bring forward over the next 2-3 years.  Over the next 5 years several thousand residents will move into apartments in the vicinity of the zone.  Several developers, including CEG, are involved in the transformation to create thousands of new jobs and new homes for the people of Leeds.
However, before assuming any conspiracy, you need to be aware why the zone IS the zone now.  The South Bank regeneration would have been further on than it is if not for the recession of 2008.  As development did not take place that area of land was left as a mainly industrial area.  Being quiet at night and having no residential properties made it a candidate for the managed approach in 2014 (This is what was explained to me by council officers.)  Leeds council do not own the land there, only a percentage of it.  The rest is privately owned.  The council plan might be worth discussing with Martin Farrington, director of city development.  My understanding is that as the zone was chosen because there were no dwellings in it the zone will move once the new residential properties are built. (If you look at the zone map the odd shape of it is caused by residential apartments being omitted.)
Therefore, there is no need for property developers to worry about the location of the zone because it will not be there once the area becomes residential.  I got involved in the community campaign because I believe that the problems in residential Holbeck and Beeston caused by the sex industry may become worse once the industrial South Bank is regenerated if Leeds does not address the current situation.  People who live outside Holbeck are usually not aware of how street prostitution, kerb crawling and harassment of residents have expanded far beyond the boundaries of the zone.
On Twitter this week we have seen pro-managed approach campaigners telling residents to move house if they don’t like the sex industry presence on their streets.  The zone does not include any residential streets.  The residents have every right to complain without being insulted.  Another supporter suggested that residents are “taking pictures of one condom and one needle from different angles and presenting them as evidence that the streets are littered with it all.”  (see below for screen shots)
We have also seen pro-MA campaigners alleging that accounts of local residents who have been abducted & raped by kerb crawlers are “anti sex-work propaganda” and a “hoax.”  (screen shots below, articles here: http://saveoureyes.co.uk/abducted-from-holbeck-street-raped-after-being-mistaken-for-prostitute/  http://saveoureyes.co.uk/child-like-17-year-old-holbeck-rapist-escaped-conviction/ )
Aside from the resident’s concerns, I am one of the people who pushes for the women’s issues to be heard.  Many of them suffer terrible trauma and abuse at the hands of punters.  They have no choice but to keep working to fund their drug addictions.  We accept that not all the women are drug addicts but even conservative estimates start at 70%.  During the months I have spent in conversation with former prostituted women, experts, residents and charities I have been unable to find evidence that the women make a free choice to pursue a career in street prostitution.  Many appear to be the adult victims of child sexual exploitation. In a recent court case former prostitutes argued they should not be forced to reveal their convictions and should be considered victims of modern slavery.
The community are very concerned that too little is being done to help women exit the industry and rebuild their lives.  According to local charity, Joanna Project, the average duration of time spent in street prostitution in Holbeck is 9 years per woman.  This is far too long and we all need to work together to help reduce the suffering.
I have always encouraged local residents to have compassion for the women.  They are victims of the commercial sex industry… victims who are paying with their lives, health and sanity.
It occured to me last year that the residents problems can be solved by addressing the suffering of the women.  If we can lift the women out into better lives most of the residents will be happier too.

Best wishes,

Paula
Below are some screen shots of messages to local residents and Save Our Eyes taken from Twitter in the last week.

Dr Kate Lister “liked” the comment above made by Carmen.  The community feel that most pro-prostitution campaigners have failed to investigate what is happening to residents in Holbeck and have no understanding of the community complaints.  They will not accept any evidence that puts the zone in a bad light.

In Kate’s article for inews she writes “Just last week, Leeds based Nick Brown Architects Ltd submitted planning and listed building applications to Leeds City Council to build a 33-storey tower of luxury apartments in Holbeck, on Water Lane – a mere 0.3 miles from the boundary of the managed area. It is one of three major development projects Nick Brown is applying for that will be built just metres from where the managed area is now.”

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/holbeck-leeds-managed-zone-removing-it-will-only-displace-vulnerable-women/

The apartments she refers to are high quality rental properties for the people of Leeds to live in!  They are not high cost luxury apartments that will be out of reach of local people.  Rents have not yet been set because the properties have not been built, though rents are expected to be from £650 a month.

As the whole of the South Bank is earmarked for regeneration there are many architects, land owners and property developers involved.  The estimate is that 10,000 people will move into the area over the next 5-10 years.

The Oxfam scandal in Haiti: why does it matter to Leeds?

The Oxfam scandal in Haiti: why does it matter to Leeds?

Opinion:

 

The Oxfam Haiti scandal: why does it matter to Leeds?

If you’ve listened to the national news over the last couple of days you’ll have heard the media outrage regarding the story of several Oxfam staff being sacked for choosing to visit local prostitutes whilst on aid work in Haiti.  This may seem a world away but the story has a relevance to our lives in Holbeck. 

 

Firstly, we understand the Oxfam staff used their own money to buy sexual services from women who were adults and seemingly willing to participate. Why were these women willing?  It’s easy to see that their poverty made them willing… perhaps we could even say that poverty forced them into prostitution?
In Leeds we have a similar situation: we know that 90% of prostituted women working the streets of Holbeck are drug addicts.  They are under a financial pressure to perform sexual services, it’s the only way they can afford their drugs.
Can we agree that both the Haitian women and the Holbeck women are essentially in the same situation?  Both are “choosing” to work as prostitutes but it’s not a real choice.  It’s their only choice.
So this brings us to the matter of the media coverage.  Hmm… what a difference!  In Leeds we are told by the experts at Safer Leeds and the Police that prostitution is a “proper job” the world’s oldest profession… so the City should give the sex industry a zone in which to operate freely to make work better for the women.
The same experts teach us that there is nothing wrong with men paying for the services of the women who choose to engage in these “proper jobs.”
Those in the community who oppose the “managed approach” are criticised as unsympathetic to the women, NIMBY’s or overly moralistic.
Yet compare that to the media coverage of the Haitian issue.  If there is nothing wrong with men paying for sexual services then why did Oxfam sack the men involved?  The same men would have been welcomed to abuse Leeds women for money.
The UK government is threatening to withdraw funding to charities that allow their staff to abuse women overseas.  Yet the UK offers an abuse zone in the heart of Leeds?  It seems the government are working on a 2-tier system when it comes to morality. On the one hand they are damning in their criticism (and rightly so) regarding the abuse of women in troubled zones who when presented with the chance to earn money so that their families can eat they take it. On the other hand the government legislates a legal prostitution area where the women who are in this sad existence are encouraged to carry on instead of being given help to lift them out of it.
It doesn’t make sense.  We believe that people should be opposed to the sexual slavery of women all around the world OR support it all around the world.  Holbeck women deserve the same rights as Haitian women. The abuse of women is wrong, no matter where it happens in the world.
– Laura Walton.
Laura is a Holbeck resident and runs a business in the area.  She is standing in the Leeds City Council elections as an independent candidate to try and improve the situation in Holbeck.

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