MP launches bid to outlaw prostitution

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NEW plans to criminalise prostitution will be launched in the autumn, following a consultation with relevant groups on how to tackle "the oldest profession in the world".

Scottish Labour MSP Trish Godman has asked clerks to draw up a list of agencies that should be consulted ahead of a bill being drafted.

MSPs rejected attempts to include legislation on prostitution in the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill, which was passed on Wednesday. However, Godman believes this was due to the way the amendment was written and the lack of consultation. She believes there is cross-party sympathy for trying to provide better protection for women who are trafficked, exploited and vulnerable to violence from pimps and punters.

She hopes to pass legislation before the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which agencies have warned could act as a magnet for traffickers and prostitutes from across the UK and overseas.

Godman said: "There will be a full consultation, put together over the summer, but not put out until the beginning of September or the end of August."

She believes she can gain the support of the Scottish Government after discussing her plans with justice secretary Kenny MacAskill. There is also the possibility that the bill will be introduced after next year's election, when the make up of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament will be different.

The Scottish Government does not believe that legislation and enforcement alone can make the industry safer, but will consider it in tandem with other measures, such as support through groups such as the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) in Glasgow and Scotpep in Edinburgh.

Margo MacDonald, Independent MSP for the Lothians, called for stiffer penalties for prostitutes who create a disturbance in their community, but also greater protection for them from the violence of pimps and punters.

She said: "If the status of soliciting is changed to become a crime of nuisance - one rung up the ladder from its current breach of the peace - then we must combine that with an acceptance that we have a duty of care towards everybody.

"That means the primary focus of any legislation must not be to harm or demonise prostitutes - they have to be cared for."

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