As a local group with an interest in the equality and welfare of street based sex workers in Hull, we have been deeply concerned with the impact on women facing poverty and multiple and complex disadvantages, of the Council’s use of section 222 of the local Government Act (1972) in St Andrew’s Ward to issue injunctions against sex workers. These are easier to be issued than other orders, and can result in fines or a prison sentence.
We support the National Police Guidelines and all current Government policies relevant to sex work which acknowledge negative experiences for residents of localised sex trading, but which also emphasise the need to prioritise in their approaches the rights and welfare of women who are twelve times more likely to be murdered than non sex workers. Their safety is well understood to be further disenfranchised by enforcement measures undertaken by local authorities and police which drive the trade further underground, create confusion around rights and the law: (prostitution itself is not a criminal offence), and prevent women seeking police assistance when they are targeted by violent or other perpetrators.
We have also been disturbed by the marginalising publicity and further risk of targeting that can result for individuals from such an approach. For these reasons we have engaged in years of local campaign work, meeting several times with Hull City Council and Humberside Police to try to work together on the many preferable possible solutions advocated by experts by experience and Government bodies – which have been shown to benefit both residents and the safety of women concerned.
After the order was unfortunately renewed a second time in December 2019, given our ongoing concerns, and as a last resort we decided to apply to court for a Judicial Review to challenge the lawfulness of processes followed, the existence of proper consultation on the order, adherence to equality act duties, and the fairness and transparency in the implementation of the order. The Judicial Review is ongoing.
We celebrate the news today that Hull City Council have applied to dismiss the section 222 order. We hope that any future approach will include wide collaborative consultation with sex workers, residents, experts, police and voluntary and community organisations to find fair processes and solutions in accordance with national policy.