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.
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.
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).
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