Walk in a punter, walk out a criminal
Posted on April 1, 2010
From today it will be “an offence to pay for sex with someone who has been forced, threatened, exploited or otherwise coerced or deceived into providing the sexual services by someone else who has engaged in such conduct for gain.”
And here’s a poster about it that you can download from the Home Office website:
Poster reads: “Walk in a punter. Walk out a criminal
From April 1st 2010, paying for sex with someone who has been forced into prostitution is illegal. You cannot use the excuse that you didn’t know and you can be fined up to £1000 and get a criminal record.
If you even suspect a woman has been threatened or coerced do something about it immediately. Contact the charity Crimestoppers anonymously.
Crimestoppers 0800 555 111”
Many congratulations to all those who worked so hard to make this happen.
Those trite little sentences reveal exactly what is corrupt and wrong with this legislation (Section 14 of the Policing and Crime Act) – the client cannot properly walk in as a law abiding customer and walk out a criminal because he will not have had a fair trial.
Yet the law as currently enacted presumes Common Purpose or Joint Enterprise with the exploitative person and convicts, not only without proof, but without the right to any trial at all, a travesty of justice if ever there were one.
It is true that certain minor motoring offences are dealt with on a strict liability basis, but in those cases it has to be made absolutely clear in advance where and when the restriction begins and ends. That is exactly not the situation when a client meets a prostitute. The client will of course be led to believe that the prostitute is not being exploited whatever the actual circumstances are.
Furthermore, the client is not even the person guilty of the primary wrongdoing, ie, the exploitation, but is in fact being automatically convicted, as a secondary defendant, because of the wrongdoing, of which he knows nothing, that has already been committed by someone else. And without the right to a fair trial, or in fact to any trial at all.
That is like saying that if I stay too long at a parking meter and get a ticket, the next person who parks there must also pay a fine whether he is guilty of an offence or not.
The right to a fair trial for any serious or contentious criminal offence has been endemic in British law for hundreds of years. Very little legislation has ever dared to violate it like this. No doubt this legislation will receive extensive scrutiny from the judiciary when cases begin to be brought to law.
But aren’t the overwhelming majority of women who work as prostitutes forced to do so by some circumstance or other. Poverty and drug addiction aswell as trafficking and domestic abuse provide fertile ground for the sexual exploitation of women.
How any ‘punter’ manages to convince themselves that they are engaging in fully consensual sex and that what they’re doing is not abusive is a mystery to me. Do they think that women enjoy selling sex – that it is oh so empowering? Do they think that girls everywhere go to their careers interviews and say ‘Well what I’d really like to do is work in an industry where I’m repeatedly exposed to both sexual and physical violence, where I have to have sex with people that I am not physically attracted to, and where I have to cater to sexual fantasies that I may well find repulsive’?
The new law is a start but does not go nearly far enough in my opinion. What we need is a law that criminalises any buying of sex, coupled with decent funding for support services for women who want to find a way out of the sex industry.
I completely agree Gappy
That poster makes it perfectly clear in advance where the restrictions begin and end. Once a punter walks through that door it’s his responsibility to know the law. And that law states that it is a criminal act whether knowingly or not to have sex with a woman who has been coerced in to having sex. And on that basis he will have a fair trial.
As for this law being corrupt how would you frame it so it wasn’t? Criminalise all punters or would that be corrupt too?
This law is more timid than anything else.
“What is the maximum fine for a speeding offence?
For a Fixed Penalty, the maximum fine is £60. For a case referred to Court, the maximum is £1,000, except for motorway offences, where the maximum is £2,500.”
I would be fairly surprised to see a poster like that at the entrance to a brothel!
I disagree, since the law is automatically convicting the client because the exploitative person has committed an offence against the prostitute before the client himself became in any way involved. He is not getting a fair trial because if he has paid the prostitute, which is in itself perfectly legal, he automatically becomes guilty immediately it is discovered that the prostitute has been coerced by someone else. That is assuming Common Purpose (ie, collusion with the exploitative person) where none exists.
It would therefore be impossible to obtain a conviction at a fair trial, which is why the strict liability condition has been introduced to remove the right to a fair trial.
No, I would abolish Section 14 altogether before it becomes the subject of a judicial review.
Hope that helps.
I’m having difficulty following your logic Gulfstream5. Why is the law assuming ‘common purpose’? If I go and buy heroin, that’s a criminal offence I’ve committed myself, I don’t need to have ‘common purpose’ with the dealer.
There are lots of strict liability offences (ones which do not require mens rea) in English law. And this handy guide explains why:
Defendants might raise mistake as a defence – “I didn’t know..”.
If there were any excuse, defence or exceptions to certain types of offences successful prosecutions would be so difficult as to render the relevant law unworkable.
An example is the offence of having a bald tyre on a motor vehicle. Any requirement for ‘knowingly’, ‘recklessly’ (etc) would give every motorist a ‘get out’, he/she could simply say, and “if I had known it was bald I would never have driven the car”.
Now clearly in the case of this offence, it would be unworkable if mens rea was required. Everyone would just say – “but I didn’t know the woman was being coerced”.
The reason for the posters is so that everyone knows about the law BTW. Which is the government being extra nice because ignorance of the law is no excuse anyway.
Just as it is people’s responsibility to check the tread on their tyres before driving, it is the responsibility of those buying sex to ensure they are buying it legally.
The law as currently drafted is in effect doing so because otherwise it would be legal to pay for sex. Some degree of collusion between the client and the exploitative person must therefore become established before the payment for sex can become illegal.
The current law does not seek to prove this connection in a fair trial, but simply presumes it on a strict liability basis without a trial.
Correct, because (a) the purchase of heroin is always illegal because it’s a prohibited drug, and (b) in this case you would therefore be the primary defendant and not the secondary defendant as the unaware client of an exploited prostitute would be.
Incidentally, if the drug had been smuggled, the prosecution would have to prove that the defendant had been “knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of the prohibition”.
Correct, but that does not automatically mean that removing the “mens rea” element, and with it the right to a meaningful defence, is consistent with the Human Rights Act and with natural justice.
I was interested to note in the link you posted that:
That is no doubt the argument being used by Baroness Scotland, Jack Straw, Vera Baird et al. But also that:
Which appears to be saying that not knowing that the prostitute was coerced is a legitimate defence.
Again correct, but here again the driver of the car is the primary defendant, equivalent to the exploitative person in Section 14. Any passengers in the car would be secondary defendants, equivalent to the prostitute’s clients, but the law does not prosecute the passengers for the tyre offence, least of all on a strict liability basis.
Would prosecuting the passengers as well “encourage greater vigilance to prevent the commission of the prohibited act”? Possibly, but the law does not extend strict liabilty to that degree, and neither should it in Section 14.
But as the law currently stands, those buying sex cannot ensure that they are buying it legally, which is why Section 14 should be abolished. I doubt that this issue will be resolved until dealt with by the Court of Appeal.
This is good news.
It’s great to hear the rapist punters squealing to get let off the hook too. Never stand between a man and his entitlement to rape a woman. Never mind that she wouldn’t even be in the situation she’s in if it wasn’t for his rapist ways and his demand that there are women there to sexually serve him whether they want to or not.
Three men have already been arrested under the new law:
“But as the law currently stands, those buying sex cannot ensure that they are buying it legally, which is why Section 14 should be abolished.”
So don’t buy sex then, asshole.
It’s not difficult. Choose every day not to rape women exploited in sexual slavery.
If you need sexual relief, masturbate. Don’t use a woman as a receptacle.
Delphyne – I would suggest that where a service is basically legal, the presumption should be that it is being supplied legally, and that the purchaser should not therefore be liable to any penalty unless some form of complicity with a person supplying the service illegally can be proved.
David – obviously your opinion, suggestions and dogma is skewed towards legalisation, mainly so you can continue to buy sex with impunity, without a care for the women who you abuse .
I look forward to your prosecution and conviction.
msvirago – Thank you for your comment. However, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a long time as I’m only interested in the legal aspects now.
Gulfstream I think if you find yourself in a situation where you might rape a woman then you should restrain yourself.
The belief that you are entitled to a “service” which might include you raping someone is just an astonishing mindset for you to have.
I also look forward to seeing you in jail.
Delphyne – Very nice of you to offer to come and visit me in jail! However, I think you’ll find that under the new legislation the sentence is only a fine – please try to keep up!
Gulfstream is the poster boy for punter criminalization. Research has demonstrated that men who (ab)use prostitutes know they’re likely raping someone, and they do not care.
Gulfstream is also one of those punters the liberal feminists have been carping about since Iceland’s news broke. According to their theory, if he does not get the prostitutes he wants legally then he is more likely to rape and brutalize prostituted women as punishment for feminists denying him what is rightfully his.
I think this new law is a good start at changing attitudes about prostitution.
The vast majority of prostituted women are exploited in the sex trade – and the vast majority of punters do not give a damn.
He want to have “sexual relief” or a bit of fun is so much more important then her human rights.
Then she is not viewed as a full human, just his porn-toy. He owns her, she is just goods.
When a john makes the choice to buy a prostitute, he will refuse to care whether she has been abused or not. Of course, all johns will believe they the good guys.
No matter if she is frozen during his “amazing” performance, no matter if her eyes are dead, no matter if he sees injuries on her.
If he has fun, that all that matters.
This new law is a start, but why should takes no responsibity.
They make the adult decision to be a real man, and not to buy another human just for his want for an orgasm.
i think this is a good law.
i think gulfstream you are being deliberately obtuse about the slogan being used. of course the punter isn’t going to ‘walk out a criminal’ in terms of being branded a criminal without a fair trial. it is simply informing people of the law. just as when we have posters about other crimes – it’s a slogan and an effective one.
‘i didn’t know’ is not a defence. reading natasha walter’s review of some of the men on punternet made me physically sick and made me more and more convinced of this.
people who use prostitutes, and rape women due to them being coerced into sex should be prosecuted. women are not receptacles, women are not there for men’s sexual pleasure.
Look Gulfstream 5, it’s really simple. Sex is legal. Except if it’s with someone under 16, or who doesn’t consent, or can’t consent.
You don’t have sex first and ask questions later. You ask questions first. If you assume a 14 year old wants to have sex with you without asking and is over 16, expect to fall foul of the law.
If you don’t want to have sex with a trafficked woman, ie, one who doesn’t consent, make sure you choose someone who hasn’t been coerced. Check. If in doubt, don’t go ahead. Otherwise you’re committing rape. And you ARE the primary defendant. Just as anyone else committing rape is.
YOU have a responsibility to check that someone you have sex with consents and is capable of consent . No matter WHAT the situation.
In actual fact ‘honest but mistaken belief’ is no longer a defence in ‘straightforward’ cases of rape either. The belief has to be reasonable.
To avoid committing a criminal offence, avoid situations where it’s likely to happen. Don’t buy strangely cheap goods off people in the pub. And don’t buy sex in situations where the seller may not have consented. Check first.
And if you’re still rilly, rilly worried, save yourself some cash and have a wank instead.
My point entirely. If the client’s belief that the prostitute was not being coerced is reasonable, there should be no automatic conviction on a strict liability basis.
‘From today it will be “an offence to pay for sex with someone who has been forced, threatened, exploited or otherwise coerced or deceived into providing the sexual services by someone else who has engaged in such conduct for gain.”’
Why were the bits in italics included in the law? I mean, they could have been left out and then we’d have a much broader law, which would better protect a whole range of vulnerable people.
james – A very good question, if I may say. In my humble opinion, the answer is that the Labour party under Gordon Brown is idealogically opposed to the sex industry, and is far more obsessed with that than upholding the rights of a whole range of vulnerable women.
In my view, the proper answer is to uphold sex workers’s rights as far as possible, whilst at least affording those who have failed to do so a fair trial in accordance with the basic principles of British justice. If it can be proved that anyone has knowingly violated a sex worker’s rights then of course they should be punished, but it should be necessary to prove it at a fair trial.
Hope that helps.