a letter from a local resident

For a number of weeks I have been attempting to involve our St Margarets neighbourhood police team in doing something about sexually explicit advertisements on the notice boards of our two local news agents - this, in the knowledge that this type of advertisement is sometimes placed not by the individual offering such services, but by those who control them. The response from Constable Peebles is that in his opinion these are perfectly harmless and in the eyes of the police “there is no offence being committed”.

But looked at more closely -

A Home Office Plan issued in 2009, Update to the UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking says that:

“As part of our effort to combat human trafficking for sexual exploitation it is necessary also to tackle the demand for exploitative forms of prostitution which helps create the demand for trafficking…

Raising awareness about human trafficking is another way of reducing demand. We have continued to utilise the Blue Blindfold brand, developed by the UKHTC [UK Human Trafficking Centre]. The campaign sought to raise awareness of trafficking as an issue relevant to people in their local communities; that it extends beyond the sex trade and that young women are not the only victims; it encourages people to report any suspicions about trafficking to Crimestoppers or the police; and it sign-posts people to the Blue Blindfold site where more information is available.

…the Blue Blindfold campaign with its strap line of “Open Your Eyes to Human Trafficking” encourages all sectors of the public, including law enforcement to be aware of the dangers of human trafficking”.

Later on in the same report, in a section on Reducing demand, it says that, from 2009 onwards, “We will continue to use the Blue Blindfold brand to raise awareness about trafficking and reduce demand. A key feature of this will be to work in closer collaboration with local authorities to promote local information campaigns on human trafficking using Blue Blindfold material to disseminate the anti-trafficking message to communities”.

A more recent annual report issued last year (2012 - so definitely reflecting the policies and priorities of the current coalition government) by the UK government’s Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking says that:

“The UK is committed to tackling the harm and exploitation that can be associated with the sex industry and takes seriously the need to protect people involved in prostitution. However, due to the underground nature of this industry, tackling demand is challenging. There has been some good progress in terms of legislation. In 2010 an offence which criminalises those who pay for the sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force was introduced. Section 14 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 created a strict liability offence which is committed if someone pays or promises payment for the sexual services of a prostitute who has been subject to exploitative conduct of a kind likely to induce or encourage the provision of sexual services for which the payer has made or promised payment.”

I think perhaps that some of us walking to work will have seen these advertisements and may not actually realize that these can be seen as one face of human trafficking possible active here just round the corner, but I believe that it is incumbent on all of us to raise awareness of this issue.

Many thanks,

Gail Rooke