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Friday, July 2, 1999 Published at 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK


City looks to legalise brothels

The move aims to reduce the number of women working the streets

Controversial plans to bring the sex industry within the law by registering prostitutes and licensing brothels are being considered by one of England's major cities.

Police in Sheffield want to see massage and sauna parlours monitored, and prostitutes registered with the local council.

It is hoped that such moves will reduce the number of women working on the streets, improve safety for prostitutes and clients, and prevent brothels being used for other crimes such as drug dealing.

A police-led pilot scheme has been operating for a year in Sheffield's Attercliffe district, and the council is reported to be keen to extend the scheme across the city.

Council officials have already consulted the Home Office, and next week its lawyers will meet local government legal specialists to discuss the possible introduction of new regulations.

'Widespread support'

The council also wants to know whether existing by-laws can be used to force the licensing of brothels. Meetings between council officials and owners of the city's massage parlours are said to have found widespread support for the idea.

But any attempt to legalise brothels, even if brought via the back-door route of licensing, is likely to provoke outrage from church and community groups.

South Yorkshire Police rejects claims that it is supporting legalised prostitution.

"It's a method of controlling who runs this kind of business and allows us to keep an eye on what goes on," said a police spokesman.

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